LOS ANGELES NTT Cyber Solutions Laboratories will demonstrate a new approach to perception technology at the Siggraph 2004 Conference and Expo this week that untethers the virtual-reality experience from gloves and wires.
The haptic technology employs an air jet-based interface. It consists of a detector, which senses a user's movement with a camera; a display, which projects a virtual object as appropriate to the movements of the user; and a force-feedback unit, which uses air jets to apply forces that make it seem as if the user is touching the remote objects.
An air jet is released from one of many nozzles embedded in a table and aimed at an air receiver held by the user. The impact on the air receiver makes it seem as if the virtual object is in the user's hand. The air stream is controlled to reflect the state of contact between the air receiver and the virtual object. The control of the haptic sense and 3-D video are correlated so that when the user presses the surface of the virtual object, the user can see that the corresponding 3-D computer graphic object becomes indented, lending positive reinforcement.
A detection system, using a camera and a projection-based stereo display, is incorporated into the interface to enhance the user's feeling of freedom of movement. Since transparent air is used to convey the force feedback, it does not interfere with either the optical position tracking or the projection display.