Previously the realm of science fiction technology, the team at Glasgow Uni have developed a new way to create the sensation of physically interacting with holographic projections.

A piece of science fiction technology could be one step closer to reality after engineers at Glasgow University developed the world's first haptic - or touchable - holograms.

The idea of touchable holograms is familiar to millions from its appearance in sci-fi favourites like Star Trek’s holodeck, where characters can interact with solid-seeming computer simulations of people, objects and places.

Now, a crack team of engineers from the uni have developed a new way to create the sensation of physically interacting with holographic projections.

In a new paper published in the journal Advanced Intelligent Systems , the team describe how they have developed a new technique they call ‘aerohaptics’. The system pairs volumetric display technology with precisely controlled jets of air to create the sensation of touch on users’ hands, fingers and wrists.

The technique could form the basis of new ways to interact with virtual objects, advanced forms of teleconferencing, and even empower surgeons to perform procedures remotely.

The system, developed by the University’s Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies (BEST) research group, is based around a pseudo-holographic display which uses glass and mirrors to make a two-dimensional image appear to hover in space – a modern variation on a 19th-century illusion technique known as Pepper’s Ghost.

It pairs a Leap Motion sensor to track users’ hand movements with a moveable air nozzle to direct airflow to their palms and fingertips.

In the paper, the team offer an example of how they used the system to create a realistic sensation of bouncing a basketball. With a computer-generated 3D image of a basketball displayed in space, and the Leap Motion sensor tracking the movement and location of the user’s hands, the system varies the direction and force of the airflow to create aerohaptic feedback.

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