Science fiction film directors like Steven Spielberg often seem to have a sixth sense for future technologies. In his movie “Minority Report”, cinemagoers were fascinated seeing Chief John Anderton when he used gesture control in the Precrime department of the Washington Police identifying criminals. About 15 years later the technology finally arrived in the real world.
There are different approaches that realize gesture control nowadays, users of such systmes are able to interact with and control devices without physically touching them. Many approaches use cameras and computer vision algorithms to interpret sign language. Consequently, with gesture recognition one can communicate with the machine and interact naturally without any mechanical devices.
The UK based company Ultrahaptics uses a totally different methodology in their gesture recognition solution. They created a remarkable connection between people and technology that could be critical for the evolution of touchless gesture recognition, because video or radar approaches lack of something essential, many users confused to a certain extend when using this technology. It’s the haptic feedback that makes Ultrahaptics’ approach unique.
People use haptics as one of their five senses in everyday activities. Touch is important to move things, to analyse circumstances and can be critical in the decision-making process. As haptics is linked to our psyche, the feel of a solid control panel is able to create positivity and confidence. In the end there will be greater acceptance of touchless gesture control systems.
Using ultrasound, Ultrahaptics brings the sense of touch to mid-air gestures. Without having a physical connection, gesture recognition becomes responsive and reactive for the first time. Initially renowned in the healthcare sector, ultrasound will more and more be used in other industries as well. The sound waves with frequencies higher than the upper audible limit of human hearing, will already be used in sensors that are utilized for vehicle parking for instance. Apart from proximity sensing ultrasound sensors can also be found in flow sensing or level sensing in the industrial sector. The application areas are diverse. Basically, whenever it comes to human-machine-interfaces (HMI), gesture control could be used.
All approaches have in common that the location of an object, in the case of gesture control, e.g. a hand or fingers, has to be tracked. However, Ultrahaptics’ tactile interface is based on a Leap Motion Sensor paired with an array of ultrasonic transducers. Ultrasonic waves are generated. When being crossed by something, e.g. a hand, perceptible targeted points of invisible turbulence will be engendered. It feels a little bit unusual at the very beginning, but after a very short time you get comfortable with it, and you will be able to handle the control easily. Execution of fine control is possible. That’s needed in certain situations, such as when you can’t look at a display while driving a car.
During this year’s CES® in Las Vegas, Ultrahaptics was present with a booth and presented its solution during the first week in January. The German supplier of technology and services BOSCH introduced a concept car, which was of special interest during the show. They showcased a future car that includes a wide range of innovations. Apart from other innovations, touchscreen technology with haptic feedback from Ultrahaptics is included too.
Ultrahaptics is offering a Touch Development Kit (UHDK5), which includes a 14×14 transducer array and control board. It comes with a pre-calibrated gesture tracking sensor and a Software Development Kit (SDK) API programming environment with industry standard C++. You will be assisted by the Standard Sensation Editor with the design and development of sensations. The kit offers infinite possibilities to design products in various market such as car infotainment systems, gesture controlled gaming or human machine interfaces. All kinds of different form factors for future electronics are imaginable, because buttons and dials potentially become obsolete.
The TOUCH Development Kits will be available to buy on our Ultrahaptics highlights page. You can also download the product brief for more information here. Please also feel free to get in touch with us here if you need further information.