Can you imagine 3D holograms that you can touch? We have seen this technology in many sci-fi movies and it could be commonly used in the near future. Today, holograms are already used, but they have only limited possibilities of interaction. Researchers group from the University of Glasgow have now developed a system of holograms using “aerohaptics”. The feeling of touch is created by air jets that blow air. Jets of air deliver a sensation of touch on people’s fingers, hands and wrists.

Natural tactile sensation with the help of air currents

This technology could soon improve to see a hologram of a friend or colleague from work and feel us shake hands with him. The technology combines generated graphics that are paired with precisely directed air currents. Although there are virtual reality headsets and smart gloves today, they will not give you the perfect tactile connection. The new technology adds a touch feel with the help of air nozzles, which allows you to feel the touch without having to wear special gloves. This makes touching objects much more natural.

Pushing a button allows the user to feel pressure which feels like touch. University of Glasgow, Author provided

Combination of graphics and air nozzles

The illusion of a 3D virtual image is used for research. The systems use glass and mirrors to make the 2D image appear to float in space. Haptic feedback is created only with the help of air. The system uses pyramid-shaped mirrors that have one side open. The graphics are created and controlled by the Unity Game Engine software program, which is used to create 3D objects in computer games. Under the pyramid is a sensor that senses the user’s movements and one nozzle that directs the air flow and creates a complex feeling of touch. The nozzle system is controlled by electronic hardware that is programmed to use an algorithm that allows the air nozzle to respond to hand movements. The nozzles blow air in different directions and with different intensities based on the movement of the hand.

The future of aerohaptic technology

The aerohaptic system was demonstrated during an interactive projection of basketball. The basketball can be touched and controlled convincingly. The tactile feedback is so perfect that the user feels the shape of the ball and also feels it hit his palm while dribbling.

Although aerohaptic system technology is in its infancy, it will soon be possible to adjust the temperature of the air jets to distinguish between hot and cold surfaces. The possibility of adding fragrances to air streams to deepen the illusion of the environment is also being explored. This technology could be used in a wide range of sectors.