- Title: UK-SENSORY ART Touchable haptic tech brings new sense to art
- Date: 28th August 2015
- Summary: LAPTOP SHOWING VISUALISATION OF ULTRAHAPTICS TECHNOLOGY RESEARCHER'S HAND MOVING OVER SENSOR PAD
- Embargoed: 12th September 2015 13:00
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA47KEHQIUG883JFR64EOQRUXD2
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A haptic technology that enables users to receive tactile sensations from invisible three dimensional objects floating in mid-air features in a new immersive art experience at the Tate Britain gallery in London.
Developed by British company Ultrahaptics, the device uses ultrasound to precisely project sensations through the air so users can 'feel' and interact with virtual objects. It applies the principles of acoustic radiation force, whereby sound waves produce forces on the skin which are strong enough to generate tactile sensations.
For the 'Tate Sensorium' exhibition the haptic device is being used to encourage a new approach to interpreting an artwork entitled 'Full Stop' by conceptual artist John Latham. Visitors put on headphones with an immersive sound design and place their hand inside a box containing the haptic device. They can then 'feel' invisible shapes being created in mid-air.
"It's basically an array of ultrasound speakers, so little speakers where you can imagine you hover your hand over it and you move it around, and you feel a sensation in mid-air without touching. And it feels like puffs of air, like when you blow through a straw on your hand; it's very focused and you can move it around on your hand. And this is basically the technology we tried to exploit and explore for the Tate Sensorium," explained Mariana Obrist from the University of Sussex, who designed the tactile sensations for the exhibition using Ultrahaptics' system.
By focusing complex patterns of ultrasound emanating from a specially designed pad, the air disturbances can be manipulated into floating 3D shapes that can be felt.
"It's only around in a specific form, like an array, where you have the different speakers arranged. And what you can basically do is you can manipulate the different frequencies, intensity ranges or the area on your hand which you can stimulate. So you can modulate it to create different tactile sensations in mid-air," added Obrist.
"Potentially it could be a really interesting way of programming these experiences so that when you go up to a sculpture perhaps, or a painting, you can put your hand out and get something mapped on to your hand that is related to it. And that could be triggered even different experiences for different people, or even in real time," said Tom Pursey from creative studio Flying Objects, who worked with Tate Britain to produce the exhibition.
Ultrahaptics' device is currently limited by the array of ultrasound speakers, but they believe it has a diverse range of potential real world applications; with touchable holograms, immersive virtual reality that you can feel and complex touchable controls in mid-air all possible applications of the system. They say it could even enable surgeons to explore a CT letting them to feel a disease, such as a tumour, using haptic feedback.
"Ultrahaptics provides us with the opportunity to really explore something where you can feel without touching. Right now it is quite constrained as an array where you hover over it. But you can imagine that you take it apart like Lego and then you can reassemble as you wish. You can integrate it in a chair, for example. And you can integrate it in textiles if the miniaturisation is working and continues to produce new devices. And then you could just imagine; you're moving through the museum where even the walls could potentially stimulate ultrasound, focused ultrasound when you are passing a certain line," said Obrist, who is researching how interactive technologies can enhance user experience.
Tate Sensorium uses four works of 20th century art and combines them with stimulation to all five senses. "In the Hold" by David Bomberg and "Interior II" by Richard Hamilton both use an immersive soundscape alongside various smells that are meant to evoke different emotions. "Figure in a Landscape" by Francis Bacon, meanwhile, uses the senses of sound and taste; with visitors invited to eat a chocolate made from edible charcoal, sea salt, cacao nibs and lapsang souchong tea to bring out the painting's dark nature.
"Once we realised the scope of things that we could do to do things like; things you can touch which aren't necessarily there, creating that sense of touch through ultrasound. Also, creating audio that you can walk through and then not hear anymore - what these speakers do - the channel of sound is so small. It really allowed us from a creative point of view to really explore this whole new area and come up with something that we thought was a lot stronger," said Pursey.
Tate Sensorium' runs until September 20.
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