Tech News

Ultrahaptics Presents Mid-Air Haptic Feedback Technology

Dan Price 08-01-2019

Ultrahaptics has once again wowed guests at CES with its demonstration of the latest mid-air haptics technology.

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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 transducers at CES 2019

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.

In-Car Controls

Ultrahaptic supersonic feedback at CES 2019

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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  1. James Bruce
    January 9, 2019 at 9:12 am

    They've shown this every year at CES since 2015 with no practical application yet. Looks fun, but definitely a solution in search of a problem, which they won't find. https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/consumer-electronics/gadgets/ces-2015-hands-on-with-ultrahaptics-ultrasonic-tactile-display

    I'm absolutely shocked that one of their directors thinks the technology has a future. Shocked, I tell you.