by Fahim Popalzai & Merlin Feil & Lennart Schiffers
Our approach was to improve the experience with mid-air gestures. Ultrahaptics is a device that lets you feel tactile sensations in the air. It provides vibration feedback for mid-air controlled interfaces. My project partners and I have done basic research to find out how users react to something they can not see. Mostly, we wanted to find out if ultrahaptics in combination with auditory and visual feedback could produce the same user experience as real haptic interfaces.
Ultrahaptics is a technology that uses ultrasonic waves that we could manipulate to create our own tactile feedback in the air. Our main goal was to replicate simple controls like a potentiometer or a knob. Therefore, we had to use the ultraphaptik delivered switching movement to track the hand position of the user.
Our prototype had four different phases to show how different feedback types enhance the user experience. In the first stage, the user can only feel the tactile feedback in the air. Most users can not imagine what the projection should be and how it should be used. In the second stage, the user receives a visual feedback in addition to the tactile feedback. The user notices how the controls are positioned and he can usually use them. In the third stage we have combined all three feedback types so that the user receives tactile and auditory feedback in each new phase of the slider. The visual feedback changes when a new level of the slider is reached.
A major disadvantage of the Ultrahaptic was that it could not generate the tactile focus in the air fast enough. So if you make a gesture to fast ultahaptics, it was not possible to track the feedback on your finger and you could not feel it. We've also realized that the feedback Ultrahaptics creates is not strong enough and many users say it's like a gust of wind. But it is definitely the right approach to bring the tactile feedback to the user back, as we know it from the old controls, such as in the car. I think that much will be possible here, once the development of ultrahaptics has progressed.