There are several ongoing projects to enrich 3D gesture control by adding a physical sense of touch, felt in the air.
Touch sensitive interfaces have become one of the most popular methods for handling devices, especially those within the mobile landscape. However, there are other ways of interacting with machines that are set to gain ground in the near future. One is 3D gesture control, the most recognizable face of which is Microsoft’s Kinect controller, although there have been a number of other initiatives that provide this technology. At the same time, projects are being developed to give a sense of touch to gestures the user makes in the air.
Tactile surfaces have no texture, so, in the end, the user’s perception is based on the sense of sight. The same is true for 3D gesture control. Some initiatives have observed, however, that this technology could be enhanced, adding the sense of touch to the experience.
Disney Research, the area responsible for research at the animation factory, has developed its own solution to adding the sense of touch to air gestures. It is a device composed of parts made by 3D printing which emits compressed air in the shape of rings to simulate tactile sensations. Aireal, the name of this technology, enables us to reproduce the motion of objects and their texture, ejecting puffs of air at different frequencies to stimulate the skin in one way or another.
The University of Bristol in England has released another system through which a user can experience tactile sensations while making gestures in the air. The technology uses a Leap Motion device, although it can also work with other controllers, and employs ultrasonic vibrations to create a three-dimensional space within which the user can physically experience a sense of touch.
The system has been called UltraHaptics and is capable of simulating a wide range of tactile sensations using ultrasonic waves. It is the only method based on ultrasound. Tacit is a project for blind people and aims to provide anticipatory tactile sensations of the objects that surround them. From the wearer’s wrist, the device can scan the surroundings and return the information obtained using sound waves.