Researchers have built a machine that renders holograms touchable, adding to a growing body of “telehaptic” prototypes released in 2015.
The holographic machine is called Haptoclone and was developed by researchers at the University of Tokyo. It consists of two boxes, one containing an object and the other displaying a hologram of that object. If a user puts her hand into the second box to interact with the hologram, she’ll feel it—thanks to ultrasonic radiation pressure emitted onto her hand.
The tactile sensation is pretty realistic. When a Gizmodo reporter tried it, she said she could tell that the holographic ball she was interacting with was made of inflated plastic–just by “touching” the hologram. When a Motherboard reporter tried Haptoclone, she described feeling a holographic rendering of a human hand as “strange bubble-like sensations” that emanated from her fingertips.
The technology is limited for now. It can only emit a “safe” level of ultrasound radiation, meaning that the degree of tactile feedback it can simulate is confined to things like lightly stroking an object. It can’t yet emulate a handshake or a bear-hug, as Motherboard noted.
For more of a full-body experience, you can try donning a Tesla Suit, which promises to transmit touch through a scuba-like outfit. It’s made by an outfit called Tesla Studio—no relation to the electric car maker—and it’s due for a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.
A video shows the suit delivering what its makers claim is the first “virtual hug” ever received.
Another, similar product, the KOR-FX haptic vest, is already in production, although it’s aimed at a market of hardcore gamers.
Then there’s this: a sonar glove that lets you ‘”touch” underwater objects that are just out of reach. It’s useful in situations like searching for items in a flood, its creators noted. The best part about this bit of telehaptic tech is that it’s available as a DIY kit: just 3D-print the pieces and wire it up to an Arduino to get started.