Presenting at SIGGRAPH earlier this week, Disney researchers showed off REVEL, experimental technology for adding virtual textures to everyday objects using electrical charge. You can touch two-dimensional objects, projections or objects in the distance and receive sensation of touching a texture or even a whole, complete three-dimensional object.
An imperceptible electrical signal is introduced across the user’s whole body to create an oscillating electrostatic field around the skin. When touching a physical object, such as a tablet screen, that shares a common electrical ground with the REVEL signal generator, an electrostatic force modulates the friction between the sliding finger and the object to create the sensation of a texture.
Varying the properties of the signal, such as the shape, amplitude, and frequency, can provide a wide range of tactile sensations, according to Ivan Poupyrev, Disney research scientist working on the project. The REVEL device can coordinate tactile sensations with images on almost any surface, including walls and tables, providing they have a conductive element. Paint on a wall, for example, could include copper emulsion to make it conductive, according to the Disney lab. Likewise, it could augment three dimensional objects to be “felt” through a custom designed display case.
Read more on MIT’s technologyreview
Earlier versions of the project here.