Scientists at the University of Glasgow are making our futuristic science fantasies a reality. They have created a system that allows users to actually feel a hologram.
The system uses jets of air known as “aerophatics” to simulate the feeling of holding something. “Those jets of air deliver a sensation of touch on people’s fingers, hands, and wrists,” wrote one of the researchers Ravinder Daahiya in a piece of The Conversation. “In time, this could be developed to allow you to meet a virtual avatar of a colleague on the other side of the world and really feel their handshake. It could even be the first steps towards building something like a [Star Trek] holodeck.”
Daahiya and his team’s system consists of a nozzle that blows air with an appropriate amount of force onto the user in response to the movements of their hands. To test it out, the team used an interactive projection of a basketball and found that the ball could be touched and even rolled around and dribbled.
“The touch feedback from air jets from the system is also modulated based on the virtual surface of the basketball, allowing users to feel the rounded shape of the ball as it rolls from their fingertips when they bounce it and the slap in their palm when it returns,” Daahiya says.
Improving VR and video games
This holographic technology could improve virtual reality and video games and take teleconferencing to the next level. Daahiya also believes that the invention could be used by doctors and improve patient treatment by allowing them to, for example, feel a tumor.
The next steps for the team include figuring out how to modify the temperature of the airflow so that users can feel hot or cold surfaces and investigating how they could add scent to the airflow to make the experience even more realistic and immersive.