This virtual reality headset allows you to kiss over long distances

At number 20 on IE's 22 best innovations of 2022, we take a look back at this intimate invention.
Loukia Papadopoulos
A person using VR headset
A person using VR headset

Ibrahim Can/Interesting Engineering 

Can you imagine kissing someone you love long distance? As sci-fi films have showcased this is one innovation that is desired by many. In May of 2022, Carnegie Mellon University’s Future Interfaces Group released a new invention that consists of a headset that can achieve just that.

More specifically, the headset recreates the sense of touch on a wearer's face — for example, a kiss on the mouth — without adding any parts that actually cover that area.

This impressive achievement was done using ultrasonic transducers. Chris Harrison, Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science and Director of the Future Interfaces Group, told IE that “the greatest impact of the research has been to spur discussions and innovation around haptics to other parts of a user’s body besides the hands, which is where most companies are focusing their research and development today.”

Haptics put to good use

Haptics refers to the science and technology of transmitting and understanding information through touch and Harrison said it will become increasingly important in the future.

“The fact is, in order to have truly immersive experiences in the future metaverse, we need to think holistically about the body,” he added.

On their website, the researchers further explain how they built a thin, compact, beamforming array of ultrasonic transducers, which could be integrated into future headsets to effectively, practically and realistically recreate sensations on the face and, in this casei particularly on the mouth.

"We use this hardware to focus air-borne acoustic energy onto the lips and into the mouth, creating sensations such as taps and continuous vibrations, which we can also animate along arbitrary 3D paths," the researchers continued on the site. "In addition to the lips, our effects can be felt on the teeth and tongue. When coupled with coordinated graphical feedback, the effects are convincing, boosting realism and immersion."

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Other sensory demos included

The scientists decided to also incorporate a variety of other sensory demos that recreate unique experiences "including raindrops, mud splatter, pushing through cobwebs, and crawling bugs." 

The invention notably marks the first time that researchers integrated haptic technology into a headset for use on the mouth. 

This is number 20 in Interesting Engineering's series showcasing the best innovations of 2022. Check back to discover more about groundbreaking AI, unique solar panels, new 3D printing methods and much more.