Holograms have remained firmly in the realm of sci-fi for years. It was only recently that scientists have been able to crudely replicate what we've been seeing in film for over 60 years. Now researchers at Disney have made another breakthrough in technology that lets you feel holograms.
Disney Research recently announced a new project called AIREAL - a technology that allows the user to "feel" a virtual object. Here's how Disney describes it:
AIREAL is designed to use a vortex, a ring of air that can travel large distances while keeping its shape and speed. When the vortex hits a user’s skin, the low pressure system inside a vortex collapses and imparts a force the user can feel. The AIREAL technology is almost entirely 3D printed using a 3D printed enclosure, flexible nozzle and a pan and tilt gimbal structure capable of a 75-degree targeting field. Five actuators are mounted around the enclosure which displaces air from the enclosed volume, through the flexible nozzle and into the physical environment. The actuated flexible nozzle allows a vortex to be precisely delivered to any location in 3D space.
One of the more interesting things about AIREAL is that it's actually pretty cheap to make. Most of the components are made on a 3D printer so the researchers at Disney can instantly prototype at their lab instead of having the parts made somewhere else.
As for uses, Disney sees AIREAL playing a role in its continued research into "large-scale computer augmented environments." In other words, you might see the technology show up in an attraction at Disney World or Disneyland. It also sees the technology playing a role in the future of "gaming and story telling, mobile interfaces and gesture control."
If you want to see more about AIREAL, check out Disney's research paper on the technology. You can also check out a video demo of the technology below:[h/t: 3ders]