The EU-funded Horizon 2020 plan has brought to light a great many interesting projects. The one that most attracted my attention is Levitate, an initiative that aims to make you physically touch and interact with virtual objects shown on a display or through a VR headset.
Up to now, technology has always involved the sense of touch only marginally. Sure, you can interact with a touchscreen display, press buttons or move joysticks, but we've never been able to touch what's in front of us. It's always been "trapped inside a display".
Levitate, a project by the universities of Glasgow, Sussex, Bayreuth, Chalmers University of Technology and Ultrahaptics, which has received funding of almost 3 million euros, wants to allow you to 'cross the barrier'. This new type of acoustic touch will let you touch virtual 3D objects as if they were right in front of you.
The entire project is based on the use of ultrasound in the spectrum between 40 and 70kHz. It is able to create acoustic forces capable of lifting (levitating, hence the name of the initiative) small particles and apply a tactile pressure perceptible by the hands, as well as generate directional sounds. Read more