Researchers have created holograms that can be touched and felt


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The ability to touch and feel objects in virtual environments has been around for a while and has long been associated with virtual reality technology. Such a capability falls under the domain of haptics. Haptics is the science and technology of transmitting and understanding information through touch.

Now researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland are creating holograms with a sense of touch. Holograms, as most people are aware, are virtual 3D images. They currently see a diverse set of uses, like medicine, defence, education, art and entertainment. Enabling a sense of touch in holographic imagery is bringing the technology a step closer to such science fiction.

The researchers’ holograms are produced using computer-generated graphics and a system of glass and mirrors. They arranged these in a pyramid shape with an open side where the user can interact with the 3D images. Below this pyramid, they placed a sensor that tracks the movement of the user’s hand and fingers, and a single air nozzle, which directs carefully controlled jets of air towards them to create complex sensations of touch.

They have demonstrated the capability of this so-called ‘aero-haptic’ system using an interactive projection of a basketball. Users can feel the rounded shape of the ball and can realistically interact with it, rolling, bouncing and slapping it in the palm of their hand when it returns. The researchers have also developed a system of holograms that represent people, where jets of air deliver the sensation of touch on people’s fingers, hands and wrists. In the future, they claim, such technology could allow a person to meet a virtual avatar of a colleague on the other side of the world and really ‘feel’ their handshake.

Source: The Conversation, 17th September 2021