When we say augmented reality and holograms, the first sense that comes to mind is sight; after all, augmented reality is that technology that lets us add invisible data and information superimposing them on the reality we can see. This was true until the University of Tokyo decided to change this concept: what if you could actually touch augmented reality?
It seems impossible, but it isn’t: some Japanese haptic researchers from the University of Tokyo’s Department of Complexity Science and Engineering (DCSE) are working on a project called Haptoclone that will make possible to make holograms sensitive to the touch of our hands or other objects, as if they weren’t simple images.
Practically, Haptoclone uses a method called “telehaptic“, through which the image of an object inserted in a device can be sent to another device of the same type, creating the illusion of touching the hologram you can see. The devices are two box-like contraptions, each lined with four ultrasound arrays that emit ultrasonic radiation pressure. In a box there’s a Kinect sensor to capture movement, in the other one the ultrasound arrays project the image exactly in the same position and make it haptic.
“It would be great to allow people in different locations to communicate with one another while experiencing a sense of touch.”, said Yasutoshi Makino, researcher.
For the moment, anyway, the scientists admit that the images could be just slightly perceived, but it is for a safety motivation: as Hiroyuki Shinoda, a professor at University of Tokyo, explains, “The [level] of ultrasound we’re currently using is very safe, but if it’s too strong, ultrasound can damage the insides of the human body such as the nerves and other tissues. We have to consider the limitations.”
Are Virtual and Augmented Reality for you still Sci-fi? It’s better you become part of the future: pursuant to a research by Digi-Capital, the market related to these new technologies will continue to raise until reaching the significant amount of $150 billion by 2020.
Today these amounts seem exorbitant: the predictions for 2016 are still showing a one-digit volume, with a hypothesis of 5$ billion. But our skepticism fades if we think to the effort of some big players like Google, with their Glass and $542 billion invested in Magic Leap, Facebook and their $2 billion Oculus Rift, HoloLens by Microsoft and the other products by Samsung and HTC. As Digi-Capital managing director Tim Merel said: “There are amazing early stage platforms and apps, but VR/AR in 2015 feels a bit like the smartphone market before the iPhone. We’re waiting for someone to say ‘One more thing …’ in a way that has everyone thinking ‘so that’s where the market’s going.”
Other surprise: the research illustrates how the real protagonist of the market in some years will be Augmented Reality. In fact, the prevision say that Augmented Reality be dominating Virtual Reality, $120 billion to $30 billion.
“VR and AR headsets both provide stereo 3D high-definition video and audio, but there’s a big difference,” Merel said. “VR is closed and fully immersive, while AR is open and partly immersive – you can see through and around it. Where VR puts users inside virtual worlds, immersing them, AR puts virtual things into users’ real worlds, augmenting them. You might think this distinction is splitting hairs, but that difference could give AR the edge over not just VR, but the entire smartphone and tablet market.”
Merel thinks that VR is great for games and 3D films, since that’s what it was designed for. However, it is primarily a living room, office or seated experience. On the other hand, Augmented reality doesn’t have the full immersive experience as virtual reality does, “but that possible weakness for gamers is exactly why AR has the potential to play the same role in our lives as mobile phones with hundreds of millions of users.”
We believe in his words and in our job: let’s watch together the rise of AR year after year. Will you be part of it?