We will soon have holograms you can touch thanks to ‘aerohaptics’

The idea of a hologram you can touch has been my sci-fi dream ever since I saw that episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where the crew played baseball on the holodeck. We’re not there yet, but this is a promising step: Researchers at the University of Glasgow have developed a system for holograms using “aerohaptics,” where jets of air create the sensation of touch on the user’s fingers, hands, and wrists. 

“In time, this could be developed to allow you to meet a virtual avatar of a colleague on the other side of the world and really feel their handshake. It could even be the first steps towards building something like a holodeck,” wrote Ravinder Dahiya, Professor of Electronics and Nanoengineering at the University of Glasgow in an article in The Conversation.  

Aerohaptics Pyramid Demo showing a hand touching a virtual object then getting hit with air to simulate touch.

(Image credit: University of Glasgow)

A small pyramid made up of a series of glass and mirrors was used to project a 2D image that looks like it’s hovering in the air. The researchers combined that hologram projector with an air nozzle inside the pyramid that directs jets of air towards your hand, changing pressure depending on the action it is trying to mimic. My favorite part is that the demo uses the Unity game engine to create the virtual objects.  

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