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Ultrasound Gives Feel To Virtual Objects

Gamers love those vibrating handsets that simulate the feel of explosions and actions. In just a few years they might be able to go one better by reaching out their hands and feeling objects on the screen. At least that will be the way if the commercial development of a new Japanese process happens.

So far the field of haptics has required special gloves to create the sensation of feeling objects on a computer screen. But new research is using focused ultrasound to create the same effect, the BBC reports.

Researcher Takayuki Iwamoto and others from the University of Tokyo have demonstrated the device that employs a camera to follow the position of a user’s hands, then has focused ultrasonic transducers produce ultrasound waves so the user feels he’s tracing the shape of the object on the screen.

At present it’s very much in prototype, but Professor Iwamoto said he had “received several proposals from industrial companies” following his demonstration of the system in California. He sees it working with video games and 3-D modelling software.

There are limits, however. Ultrasound can only emit a limited amount of force before causing ear damage.

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