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The Haptic Tech That Could Let You Touch The Person You're Skyping With

November 24, 2015 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by Alissa Walker / Gizmodo

I was skeptical. Two cubes sat side-by-side, looking like stripped-down 3D printers. I sat in front of one as instructed, and reached my hand inside, toward a floating disembodied finger. Just at the moment I knew I'd stab through the illusion, I had the ultimate "E.T. phone home" moment--I swear I could feel the other finger pressing on mine.

This was the magic and wonderment of HaptoClone, the creation of Shinoda Lab at the University of Tokyo. I tried it out at SIGGRAPH this week and even after donning dozens of VR goggles and gawking at hundreds of CGI renderings, this simple haptic device was the most interesting thing I experienced.

HaptoClone works by using converged ultrasound to give tactile feedback. An array of 1992 ultrasonic transducers are installed along the inside of the cube, which record and replicate omni-directional and volumetric forces. The feedback is instantaneous, so you can get a quite realistic feeling that the hand in the other cube is touching yours.

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