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Bristol project explores creative potential of 'UltraHaptics'

26 July 2012

A group of designers and developers are investigating, through a hands-on project, how the emerging field of UltraHaptics might be used in a creative context in the future.

The aim of the project, run by the University of Bristol and Pervasive Media Studio, is to better understand how creative practitioners and developers can work together in creating new and novel user experiences using haptics, technology which takes advantage of the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user.

UltraHaptics is a multi-point haptic feedback system that allows users to experience haptic feedback simultaneously in multiple locations. This feedback is created in mid-air – so users don’t have to touch or hold any device to experience it.

The use of ultrasonic vibrations is a new technique for delivering tactile sensations to the user. In essence, a series of ultrasonic transducers emit very high frequency sound waves. When all of the sound waves meet at the same location at the same time, they create sensations on a human’s skin.

Each group will have access to the haptic kit along with a couple of projectors, and cameras. Through a series of guided and open sessions the groups will design and create a haptic experience. There will be several breakout sessions where teams can work on their design.

Dr Sriram Subramanian, Reader in the University’s Department of Computer Science’s Interaction and Graphics group and one of the organisers of the project, said: “We are keen to learn more about the design process so we will be talking and videoing how the groups interact with each other during the breakout sessions.

“It will be interesting to find out what real world applications could be designed to make use of this exciting new technology.”

During the two-day event the group will explore the design space and identify various application scenarios along with limitations and benefits of the haptic system; develop and share some ideas around haptic experiences, test and rapid prototype ideas in a supported environment and investigate how designers and developers talk/think together about designing multi-sensory experiences.

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