Japanese scientists showcase ‘touchable’ holograms

San Francisco (CA) – Scientists at the University of Tokyo have developed a holographic projector capable of rendering tangible, three-dimensional objects. The system comprises a holographic display device, two “tracking” Wii motes and a tactile feedback ultrasound unit.

“Mid-air displays which project floating images in free space have been seen in SF movies for several decades. Recently, they are attracting a lot of attention as promising technologies in the field of digital signage and home TV, and many types of holographic displays are proposed and developed,” researcher Takayuki Hoshi explained in an academic abstract. “You can see a virtual object as if it is really hovering in front of you. But that amazing experience is broken down the moment you reach for it, because you feel no sensation on your hand.”

Hoshi noted that his team had successfully added tactile feedback to the hovering image in 3D free space.

“Although tactile sensation needs contact with objects by nature, the existence of a stimulator in the work space depresses the appearance of holographic images. Therefore some kind of remote-controllable tactile sensation is needed. That is achieved by our original tactile display,” said Hoshi. “It utilizes the nonlinear phenomenon of ultrasound; acoustic radiation pressure. When an object interrupts the propagation of ultra-sound, a pressure field is exerted on the surface of the object.”

According to Hoshi, the system is refreshable based on digital data and can be utilized for video games, 3D CADs and similar applications.