Introducing vibrating 3D buttons made out of sound

April 13, 2015

The concept of touchable holograms sounds like the holy grail of online pornography, but a British company has developed a prototype for tactile virtual objects with an array of potential uses that are much more pragmatic than prurient. 

Based in Bristol, England, Ultrahaptics wants to take virtual buttons to the next level, rendering them as floating 3D shapes that can be touched and manipulated. As this Reuters graphic shows, a grid of small untrasonic speakers creates “steerable” sound waves which are directed to the same focal point, creating acoustic pressure substantial enough to be felt by the human hand. The technology uses a directed version of the concept of acoustic radiation force, the same phenomenon that you experience when you feel the bass from a music concert pounding inside your chest.

The Ultrahaptics team is currently evaluating possible uses and manufacturers for their product, but envisions myriad applications in the consumer electronics, home appliance and automotive markets. With the Internet of Things projected to reach billions of devices and trillions of dollars, the potential buzz for this technology is palpable.

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