The Future Is Here: Researchers Figure Out Holograms You Can Feel

The scientists created a basketball which could be rolled and bounced
Loukia Papadopoulos

We have all seen Star Trek and wished we could partake in their holodeck. That technology may just be upon us now.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow have created a system that uses jets of air known as “aerohaptics” to allow users to actually feel a hologram.

"Those jets of air deliver a sensation of touch on people’s fingers, hands, and wrists," wrote researcher Ravinder Daahiya in his piece for The Conversation. "In time, this could be developed to allow you to meet a virtual avatar of a colleague on the other side of the world and really feel their handshake. It could even be the first steps towards building something like a holodeck."

The invention consists of a nozzle that blows air with an appropriate amount of force onto the user in response to the movements of their hands. Daahiya and his team used an interactive projection of a basketball to test their new system. They found that the ball could be convincingly touched and even rolled and bounced.

“The touch feedback from air jets from the system is also modulated based on the virtual surface of the basketball, allowing users to feel the rounded shape of the ball as it rolls from their fingertips when they bounce it and the slap in their palm when it returns,” Daahiya explained.

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The researchers are now looking to modify the temperature of the airflow to allow users to feel hot or cold surfaces and exploring the possibility of adding scents to the airflow. All these elements will make for a more realistic immersive experience.

Daahiya claims the new holographic technology could make for better video games without cumbersome suits and more convincing teleconferencing. He also claims his invention can be used by doctors for better patient treatment allowing them to for instance feel a tumor. We, however, are still waiting for a holodeck. Beam us up, Scottie!

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