Virtual reality is cool and all, but nothing is better than being able to feel what you're actually experiencing. That's why scientists at the University of Bristol have created a system that uses sound waves to project haptic holograms.
The idea behind haptic holograms is that you can touch sound - or at least a 3D virtualisation of sound waves - when immersed in VR. Researchers at the university have improved upon UltraHaptics technology, using high-frequency sound waves pulsing from tiny speakers to mimic the feeling of touching an invisible object in mid-air.
Watch the video below to see the technology in action. You'll see test subjects feeling invisible, floating objects, but it's really sound hitting their hands or rather the force of sound waves as it applies pressure to their skin. A Leap Motion sensor is also used to track the position of peoples' hands and help "create" full-shaped objects.
It's simple, really: the Leap Motion determines where the subject's hands are in relation to the invisible object, allowing the UltraHaptics system to precisely direct ultrasound and let the subject feel all around the invisible object (i.e., touch the top, sides, bottom, etc). That means the system can create whole objects instead of just outlines.
According to New Scientist, researches have used this technology to create several whole shapes, for instance, such as spheres and pyramids, though the level of detail isn't quite as amazing. In fact, you could compare the level of detail to early 3D-printing; the shape is apparent, but colours, textures, flexibility, and all that are limited.
The University of Bristol is now working with companies on commercial applications. Those of you who are interested in seeing the system in person can experience a live demo at SIGGRAPH Asia in China on 3 December.