The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the world’s leading conventions for cutting-edge gadgets and technology, and this year was no exception. Among the most talked-about presentations at the CES was a new form of touchless haptics technology. Haptics has been around for years now, creating tangible feedback for tablets, computers and other devices. But this new form of haptics technology seeks to provide feedback without the use of touch.
So, how does the new touchless haptics technology work? Developed by Harman, it’s designed to create the sensation of touch-based feedback — but without any vibration or other form of touch. Harman presented its concept technology at the CES with a JBL Bluetooth speaker equipped with a Leap Motion sensor and various electronic transmitters. Placing your hand a couple feet away from the transmitters creates a light sensation, similar to what a gust of air feels like.
Here’s the kicker, though: there is no air being projected at the operator. Harmon’s bold new concept actually uses ultrasonic waves to mimic the feeling of air. The system is designed to inform the user of which operating mode he or she is currently using based on the position of their hand. Waving your hand in various gestures tells the system to enter a different operating mode. You can tap around shoulder-height, for instance, to play a song. Or you can turn your hand 90 degrees and swipe to the left or right to change tracks.
The idea of a touchless form of haptics technology certainly sounds promising. From consumer tablets to commercial electronics and human machine interfaces, it could be used to enhance the user experience in a vast array of applications. By providing feedback on the user’s controls, it naturally reduces errors while promoting greater productivity. Current technology restricts haptics to what the operator can feel, but this may soon change as new forms of touchless haptics are invented.
Of course, it’s important to note that Harman’s concept is just that: a concept. The company even acknowledged that it had created the touchless haptics feedback system almost immediately before the CES.