When a rep from Ultrahaptics reached out to introduce us to a device which creates tactile sensations in mid-air, we invited him right over to show it off. Ultrahaptics is a UK company with a Bay Area presence that’s working to bring their technology to manufacturers of VR/AR gear and the automotive industry, but we thought we’d check it out for potential integration into our interactive environments. The technology is based on an array of ultrasonic transducers, combined with software which uses them to position haptic sensations in 3D space above the grid. In a demo, virtual objects exist in space that you can feel but not see. In the example, a Leap Motion controller is integrated to track the hand position, so that virtual objects can react to the user. The effect in the prototype is subtle, but should be more obvious with higher densities of transducers.
Obvious applications include things like virtual buttons and knobs in an automotive console, and more immersive environments in VR — think room-scale, and think beyond just hands. The company is interested in partnering to bring the tech to public experiences, so we’re thinking of it as another tool in the “smart spaces” toolbox, and another way to create interaction beyond the screen.