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Interactive Systems Involving Multi-point Surfaces, Haptics and true-3D displays

Final Report Summary - INTERACT (Interactive Systems Involving Multi-point Surfaces, Haptics and true-3D displays)

The summary should be a stand-alone description of the project and its outcomes. This text should be as concise as possible and suitable for dissemination to non specialist audiences.
The primary vision for this project is to develop scientific and technological know-how to create interactive systems that allows multiple users to walk-up and touch (using multiple fingers or tangible objects), feel (through haptic force feedback from the surface) and view (in both 2D and 3D) distinct forms of digitised content.

This vision was delivered through 4 work packages with the first two looking at creating Multi-point Haptic Surface (Ultrahaptics) and reconfigurable ‘true-3D’ content for a walk-up and use scenarios. The remaining two work-packages look at integrating the devices, deriving interaction principles from them and in demonstrating their utility through different application scenarios.

Ultrahaptics, is our system designed to provide feelable tactile feedback on the bare hands of a user. Our approach applies the principles of acoustic radiation force to produce forces on the skin which are strong enough to generate tactile sensations. The hardware is essentially a phased-array of about 256 ultrasound speakers where each speaker individually controlled to produce high-fidelity focal points. We generate a feelable sensations by modulating the 40KHz carrier sound with low-frequency secondary pulse to allow users to feel the pressure wave. The user perceives a discernible haptic shape when the corresponding acoustic interference pattern is generated above a precisely controlled two-dimensional phased array of ultrasound transducers.

We extended the phased array to not only create a feelable focal point but to create different types of acoustic traps that can be used to trap and levitate small objects. We were one of the first to demonstrate a one-sided tractor beam (Nat. comm 2015). These levitated objects can then be rotated in-place using electro-rotation to create mid-air displays (Uist 2016).

Within this project we also explored other forms of mid-air displays using non-solid diffusers such as mist and soap bubbles. SensaBubble (CHI 2014) is an example of such a chrono-sensory mid-air display system that generates scented bubbles to deliver information to the user via a number of sensory modalities.

To date the project has produced 4 journal publications (including 1 in Nature Communications and 2 in ACM Transactions journals), 5 ACM CHI papers, 3 ACM UIST papers and 2 patents.

One of our core accomplishments to this project has been the creation of a spin-out company called Ultrahaptics ( Ultrahaptics aims to commercialise mid-air haptic feedback. The company was established in Nov 2013 with the PhD student (Tom Carter) as the CTO of the company. We received POC funding from ERC to further develop aspects of Ultrahaptics and further received H2020 SME instrument funding (Phase 2) to develop Ultrahaptics into a globally competitive company. Today the company operates in multiple regions around the world and employs in excess of 50 people world-wide. In Sept 2016, the co-founders of Ultrahaptics were awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering Collin-campbell Mitchell award for outstanding contributions to engineering in the UK.

My team currently consists of 3 post-docs, 1 PhD and 1 support technician. The PhD student Tom Carter along with one Post-Doc Dr. Ben Long will soon move to the newly formed company Ultrahaptics.

Dr. Diego Martinez Plasencia started as a Post-doc on my ERC grant but after 2 years the University of Bristol decided to support him for another 3 years to further support my ERC grant. As a consequence Dr. Plasencia is now part of my team but not paid by my grant. Dr. Plasencia is working on the non-solid diffuser aspect of my project.

I've used this opportunity to add two additional post-docs to my team: Dr. Daniel Spelmezan and Dr. Deepak Shaboo. Both of them will work on the integration of haptics with mist based displays. Furthermore, Dr. Shaboo has a background in physics and helps deepen our collaboration with the nano-physics group which is key for the success of my final workpackage.

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