Friday, April 19, 2024

Enabling Physical Touch For Virtual World!

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Researchers have developed a way to make holograms feel realistic by enabling a sense of touch.

Time-resolved optical vibrometry characterizations were obtained during focused ultrasound stimulation of a tissue phantom and human hands. Credit: Science Advances (2023). 

Metaverse has created a hype by introducing a new world experience with a large variety of business opportunities as well. Yet something seems to be lacking which is disabling the public from hanging on to it. The addition of a sense of touch in this virtual world could be a solution to this problem. Haptic holography promises to bring virtual reality to life, but a new study reveals a surprising physical obstacle that will need to be overcome.

A team of researchers from UC Santa Barbara has discovered a new phenomenon that underlies emerging holographic haptic displays, and could lead to the creation of more compelling virtual reality experiences. Holographic haptic displays use phased arrays of ultrasound emitters to focus ultrasound in the air, allowing users to touch, feel and manipulate three-dimensional virtual objects in mid-air using their bare hands, without the need for a physical device or interface. While these displays hold great promise for use in various application areas, including augmented reality, virtual reality and telepresence, the tactile sensations they currently provide are diffuse and faint, feeling like a “breeze” or “puff of air.”

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Researchers used high resolution optical imaging, simulations and perception experiments to study ultrasound-excited waves that are excited in the skin during haptic holography. They discovered that holographic displays excite widespread vibration patterns—shear shock waves—in the skin. Shock waves create a trailing wake pattern that extends beyond the intended focal point, reducing the spatial precision and clarity of the tactile sensations. If the focused sound beam is a fast-moving boat on the water, the shock wave pattern is a wake trailing the boat. Current holographic haptic displays excite shock wave patterns that are so spread out in the skin that the sensations feel very diffuse.

Researchers hope to improve the design of haptic holographic displays and make them more realistic and immersive for users. Such haptic displays could enable us to augment our physical surroundings with a limitless variety of virtual objects, interactive animated characters, or graspable tools that can be not only seen, but also touched and felt with the hands.

Reference : Gregory Reardon et al, Shear Shock Waves Mediate Haptic Holography via Focused Ultrasound, Science Advances (2023). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adf2037


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