Feeling without touch

UK (Bristol)

Attempts to create the sensation of touch in virtual reality has, to date, used gloves or attachments. With Ultrahaptics there are tactile sensations from virtual objects without the need to wear or touch anything.

The technology works using ultrasonic vibrations that displace the air and create pressure differences which are sensed on the skin. The experience is similar to the feeling of sound waves hitting you in a club, where you feel the vibrations in your chest. Ultrahaptics uses the same principle. Once the vibration is felt on the skin, the user can then manipulate the waves with their hand, giving you the ability to operate virtual dials and switches easily in mid-air.

Ultrahaptics has generated a great deal of interest within the gaming industry. Though currently the project is developing how this could also be used to foster greater sensory understanding for people with vision and hearing impairments, where tactile ‘barriers’ to alert people when they are about to enter a potentially unsafe area of the home or work. The touchless technology changes the way we interact with electronic devices, as well as the world around us.

Written by

Lauren Burrows, Writer/ Researcher, Atlas of the Future (19 August 2015)

Project leader

Tom Carter, Chief Technical Officer and Co-founder

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