Ultrahaptics has once again wowed guests at CES with its demonstration of the latest mid-air haptics technology.
For those who don’t know, mid-air haptics refers to the process of using ultrasound to create invisible “floating” 3D shapes and textures which people can feel and interact with.
The company uses commercial-grade transducers to create the ultrasonic waves, then applies its own intellectual property which enables the transducers to produce the rapid-fire output needed to generate the floating shapes in both space and time. The technology is hardware and operating system-agnostic.
Ultrahaptics was keen to stress how the technology could benefit several key areas, and we played with a couple of their demo machines on the show floor.
A Touch Screen Replacement?
The first demonstration used mid-haptics to control a menu on a screen. Ultrahaptics hopes this implementation can ultimately replace touchscreens, especially in public areas. Public touchscreens are notorious for being hard to keep fingerprint- and germ-free.
A secondary benefit over traditional touchscreens is feedback. When using touchscreens, it’s hard to know whether your input was correctly entered and understood. With haptic technology, the user can feel a vibration or other sensory alert so they know whether their action was a success or failure.
The second demo we played with was a virtual car. The transducers were located in a position equivalent to where you would find the gear stick. They sent their ultrasonic beams upwards, enabling users to control the music volume, fans, temperature, and sat nav using a combination of finger, pinch, and “mic drop” gestures.
Because Ultrahaptics’ technology works so quickly, it can marry the haptic sensations with on-screen images and other displays. In the context of driving a car, it means drivers can see a HUD of their inputs on their windshield. It’s less distracting than having to look down to control knobs, dials, and other typical in-car controls.
Before leaving, we spoke with the company’s Director of Commercialization, Saurabh Gupta. He insisted that mid-air haptics would change the way we interact with all our devices and surrounds. Based on today’s demonstration, we are inclined to believe him.
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