Ultrahaptics Develops Free-Space Haptics Technology

Bristol UK-based Ultrahaptics is developing a free-space haptics technology that employs ultrasound to create haptic sensations without requiring the user to touch a surface. The firm’s Evaluation Program aims to provide developers with an “opportunity to get hands on with our mid-air tactile feedback technology”.

Ultrahaptics exhibited its mid-air haptics technology at CES 2015 and won a CES 2015 Top Picks award from Laptop magazine. Ultrahaptics’ ultrasonic transducer array is visible directly beneath the user’s hand in the photo below.

Source: Laptop Mag

Ultrahaptics is a spin out of the University of Bristol. The operation of the firm’s mid-air haptics technology is perhaps best illustrated and explained in the video below from the University of Bristol.

Source: University of Bristol

Haptics thus far have seen only limited applications in consumer electronics product user interfaces. For example, as in the use of vibratory motors to provide touch screen tactile feedback. As I reported in a recent Display Daily, the new Apple MacBook incorporates haptic feedback in its “Force Touch” trackpad. As reported in our coverage of the Touch Gesture Motion conference, other developers of haptic technology include Tactus Technology, Novasentis, Aito, and Tangible Haptics.

However, what makes Ultrahaptics’ technology relatively unique is its mid-air tactile feedback. The brief applications portion of the Bristol video above suggests a few use cases for the technology. Ultrahaptics describes potential applications for the technology stating, “Users can ‘feel’ touch-less buttons get feedback for mid-air gestures or interact with virtual objects”. It will be interesting to learn how developers engage with the Ultrahaptics Evaluation Program and what applications they envision for this fascinating mid-air haptics technology. – Phil Wright