See it, touch it, feel it

Dec 5, 2014

Bristol Interaction and Graphics group, University of Bristol, copyright © 2014

By University of Bristol

The research paper, published in the current issue of ACM Transactions on Graphics and which will be presented at this week’s SIGGRAPH Asia 2014 conference [3-6 December], demonstrates how a method has been created to produce 3D shapes that can be felt in mid-air.

The research, led by Dr Ben Long and colleagues Professor Sriram Subramanian, Sue Ann Seah and Tom Carter from the University of Bristol’s Department of Computer Science, could change the way 3D shapes are used.  The new technology could enable surgeons to explore a CT scan by enabling them to feel a disease, such as a tumour, using haptic feedback.

The method uses ultrasound, which is focussed onto hands above the device and that can be felt. By focussing complex patterns of ultrasound, the air disturbances can be seen as floating 3D shapes. Visually, the researchers have demonstrated the ultrasound patterns by directing the device at a thin layer of oil so that the depressions in the surface can be seen as spots when lit by a lamp.

The system generates a virtual 3D shape that can be added to 3D displays to create something that can be seen and felt. The research team have also shown that users can match a picture of a 3D shape to the shape created by the system.


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11 comments on “See it, touch it, feel it

  • Woh… Wait a minute…
    I get that they are generating “touchable 3d shapes” using ultra sound. But the article isn’t particularly clear about if they are already generating corresponding 3d holograms to go with it?

    (I suspect not, but the article kinda half-ass implies that they are.)



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  • Extraordinary. I must say that I am little bit concerned with this discovery,… I mean what if a child gets a hold of it? Is it possible that a child can create a wrong mental map of the world around her/him? Small children learn by touching the tings around them, putting them in their mouth to feel them. Any discovery does not remain closely related to the area for which it is created, so it can very soon became in every day use. I was just wandering about it in the children surroundings, …



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  • 5
    Lorenzo says:

    Well, I don’t think it would confuse children in any way more than the steam coming off a boiling pot of water: it can be felt, it can be seen and yet it can’t be held in your hand… I think this fuzzy ball won’t be risky for any child’s mental image of the world. It’s just another thing in the world with its own properties.

    Since there are some other life forms sensible to ultrasound… I suppose it’d be much more annoying to your dog. Or cat. Or bats. If the frequency is low. But I wouldn’t expect it to be low, at least to achieve decent resolution in the shape you’re rendering.



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  • You could feed this back to 3D modelling software and sculpt with your hands a 3D form which could then be used elsewhere say printed out on a 3D printer. This stuff just gets more and more remarkable all the time.



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  • I wonder if this technology can be somehow applied on prosthetics. People without limb could feel floor and objects they are touching with their artificial limb generating ultrasound? Something like echo sound in bats. 🙂



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  • 8
    old-toy-boy says:

    Bet you the first “apps” for this will be pornographic. (sorry to lower the tone of this topic).

    (Raising the tone) can they do wheels? I am thinking hoverboard, star-wars lad speeder etc



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