Disney Research has developed a new low-cost haptic technology that allows users to feel virtual objects in mid-air. Aireal uses a vortex – puffs of compressed air that retain their shape and speed over long distances – to deliver tactile feedback for users without the need for a wearable device.
Aireal builds on technologies such as Microsoft Kinect and Leap motion, which allow the user to interact with virtual objects using gestures. The Aireal device tracks the movement of the user’s body, directing the blasts of air to specific parts of the body. Multiple devices can be positioned around a room to create fully immersive experiences.
Disney claims the technology is suitable for use across a variety of virtual experiences. “The technology for creating these effects is scalable and relatively inexpensive, so we can envision using Aireal to create magical experiences both for large groups of people and for an individual in her living room,” said Ivan Poupyrev, senior research scientist at Disney Research.
New advances in gestural technologies promise to transform the way we interact with digital hardware. Last month, Microsoft released details of a 3D touchscreen system that allows images to be manipulated and moved around the screen using tactile feedback. See The Importance of Touch, Touch-Free Tech and SXSWi: The New User Interface for more in-depth analysis of this sector.