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.”