A team of researchers in Japan has created HaptoClone, which allows people to touch objects and other people without being near them. In other words, we now have touchable holograms.
“This system has two workspaces apart from each other and the two workspace fields are virtually ‘superimposed’ optically and haptically,” according to the overview page for HaptoClone created by the Shinoda-Makino Lab at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Frontier Sciences. A person in one workspace is able to see an image of the object in the other workspace, and when they reach out to “touch” the object, ultrasound energy creates a touching sensation.
“Imagine if you were in a zoo, and there was a lion on the other side of the glass that you could have the sensation of touching,” researcher Yasutoshi Makino said.
The researchers write that HaptoClone “realizes various telehaptic experiences,” though it has limitations. For instance, a handshake isn’t feasible because the ultrasound levels to create the touching sensations are too weak (and rightfully so, since strong ultrasounds can damage nerves and tissue). However, “it is possible to stroke the hand of the other side and lightly touch each other freely at arbitrary parts of the hand, sharing the haptic sensation.”
The goal, according to professor Hiroyuki Shinoda, is to “continue clarifying the function of haptic sensations to enhance and enrich human communications.”