A team of Japanese developers have created a system that uses ultrasound to create a 3D representation of an object that you can feel with your bare hands. Let me give that a second to soak in.
Yep, you heard me right. You can actually feel the virtual object. Using vibration in controllers has been a common practice for years now. The rumble gamepads, while not as popular as they once were, provided a way for us to feel what was going on in the games we played. This science is called haptics, integrating computing and the sense of touch.
What Takayuki Iwamoto and his fellow researchers at the University of Tokyo created was a device that used a series of ultrasonic transducers that emit inaudible ultrasound. When carefully focused, they were able to shift the transducer’s focal points using a camera that tracked a user’s hand. So the result was a feeling as if you were virtually tracing the outline of the object. You can feel the object with both hands, and even more than one person can feel it at the same time.
The system only provides a small amount of force as emitting too much ultrasound can actually damage the ears. However, in time, when you are playing Ryu in Street Fighter 4, you may actually be able to feel your hand making contact with someone’s chin as you pull off that shoryuken.