Help us Haptic holograms; you’re our only hope

Holograms have been a staple feature of Sci-Fi movies for a very, very long time. From Star Trek to Star Wars, and all the obscure varieties in-between (looking at you, Battlefield Earth), holograms have been lighting up our screens as a form of easy communication that looks more like an in-person chat than any type of telecommunication. They also just look really, really cool.

Well, it looks like the far off future isn’t so far off after all. While holograms have been around for some years now, they’re advancing at a much faster pace than any of us anticipated. No longer are they just bringing singers back from the dead for tasteless concerts; now we have holograms that we can feel and hear.

Researchers at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom have developed holograms that can not only be viewed from all angles and still appear fully three-dimensional, but they can also be touched. The future is now, and we’re living it.

The technology is unlike any other form of holographics designed before

How does it work? Well, as simply as we can put it, it involves a polystyrene bead two millimeters in width levitating through the use of an array of ultrasonic transducers that generate soundwaves. Makes perfect sense, right? No? Well, anyway, it looks cool.

These ultrasonic transducers can levitate the polystyrene bead at speeds of up to twenty miles per hour, which can then outline a shape as wide as ten centimeters in less than a tenth of a second. To say it’s phenomenal is an understatement. It’s downright incredible.


The genius behind all of this is that our brain cannot pick up that the bead is moving when it’s speeding around like that, which is how the hologram takes shape. By tracing out lots of shapes at a rate that we cannot see, a shape takes form before us that we have no way of telling is being produced by a hyperactive bead shooting around at insane speeds.

The best part: because the bead acts to create a fully three-dimensional shape, you can view the hologram from any angle, and it retains its shape. It doesn’t suddenly go flat if you look at it from the side, nor does it vanish entirely. It holds its shape and therefore appears altogether realistic.

It doesn’t just look good, it sounds pretty great too

As if all of that wasn’t enough to keep us thoroughly excited, the transducers used to create the hologram are also capable of producing sound waves that can be picked up by the human ear, meaning that the three-dimensional hologram can even ‘speak’ to you.

For its third and final trick, having conquered visibility and audibility, the hologram can even be touched and felt. Not quite in the same way you might feel the texture of a rug or some other textured material, but in such a way that if the hologram were a butterfly, you would be able to feel the beating of its wings.

It is an incredible and innovative step forward in the world of holographic technology

The technology isn’t quite at the level where we will be having conference meetings holographically, though that would definitely help out with the commute. Still, it certainly is an incredible and innovative step forward in the world of holographic technology.

The extraordinary piece of tech has already made its debut in the League of Legends world championships held earlier this year, wowing spectators throughout the crowds. We can’t imagine this will be the only time the holograms feature in gaming, either. Could this be the new VR system we’ve all been dreaming of? Maybe.

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