Tokyo Scientists Create Touchscreen From Thin Air

October 29, 2014 by Dave Haynes


I’m not even going to pretend I understand what the heck is happening here, but it looks pretty intriguing. A team at the University of Tokyo has created a virtual holographic screen that you can see, feel and use as a touch surface. Called HaptoMime, it uses reflective surfaces and infrared sensors that detect fingers. When a person tries to touch the visual, ultrasonic vibrations aim at the fingertips and create the impression of physical contact.

New Scientist reports:

Changing the ultrasonic pressure gives a range of sensations, from the feeling of wind to a rigid surface.

The floating image is sophisticated enough to let users play a virtual piano or read a 6pt Times New Roman font easily in mid-air, says scientist Yasuaki Monnai.

He believes secure password entry at ATMs could be the first of many applications. Other possibilities include browsing the web, checking for recipes with wet or dirty hands, or enabling doctors to interact more freely with interfaces during surgery. It would also eliminate the risk of shared interface in public areas spreading any infection or disease.

As you can see in the video this is still very much lab stuff, but the idea of virtual screens that don’t require the learning curve and fussiness of gesture has some real possibilities in certain situations where conventional touch is not going to work well.

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