A ‘forcefield’ technology that uses nothing but sound to create the feeling of interaction with solid objects in thin air has been developed by a team at Bristol University in the UK.

ultrahaptics Tactile forcefield technology developed by researchers in the UK

The technology, which has been described as ‘UltraHaptic’, uses a series of speakers which emit ultrasound frequencies in specific alignments so as to generate the sensation of a solid object in thin air. The user feels a slight tactile feedback on the surface of their skin which emulates interaction with a solid object in 3-d space.

This type of tactile interaction with virtual objects is known as haptic feedback and it’s a technology area that is currently being explored by a whole spectrum of companies ranging from Microsoft and Apple to Disney, which recently announced it had invented a technology that allowed for haptic feedback on touchscreens to trick the brain into feeling textures on a smooth surface.

Tom Carter, a PhD student from the University’s Department of Computer Science explained that ‘by creating multiple simultaneous feedback points, and giving them individual tactile properties, users can receive localised feedback associated to their actions.’

‘Current systems with integrated interactive surfaces allow users to walk-up and use them with bare hands. Our goal was to integrate haptic feedback into these systems without sacrificing their simplicity and accessibility,’ he continued.

Sources: The Guardian