Bristol researchers develop ultrahaptics

Researchers from Bristol University have emerged from their smoke filled labs with a mid-air tactile feedback prototype that allows people to interact with computers without touching them thanks to the power of sound.

Dubbed “ultrahaptics,” the system allows users to interact with a screen to feel what is displayed and receive invisible information before touching it.

According to a research paper, it works though acoustic radiation force, projected through ultrasonic transducers. Ultrasonic transducers were first first mentioned in the camp flick the Rocky Horror Picture Show as having a different function.

In the 70s cult flick, the sonic transducer was an “audio-vibratory-physio-molecular transport device” which can “send you to another planet, Janet”.

Bristol’s sonic transducer emits very high frequency sound waves which when they meet mid-air, create a sensation on a person’s skin.

By combining several waves, the Bristol researchers create multiple points of tactile feedback with different properties that can be spotted by users.

One of the researchers working on the UltraHaptics project, PhD student Tom Carter, said current multi-touch systems do not allow people to feel what is on the screen.

The researchers will present the UltraHaptics paper at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology 2013 at the University of St Andrews this week. Here is a safe-for-work video of the machine in action: