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Aireal – Interactive tactile experiences in free air by Disney Research

AIREALVortexRing1 copy


Created by the Disney Research group and presented at the most recent SIGGRAPH 2013, Aireal is a low cost, scalable haptic technology that delivers expressive tactile sensations in mid air. Aireal enables users to feel virtual objects, experience dynamically varying textures and receive feedback on full body gestures, all without requiring the user to wear a physical device. Potential uses include gaming and story telling, mobile interfaces, and gesture control among many others.


RenderingHighResThe device has been designed to use a vortex, a ring of air that can travel large distances while keeping its shape and speed. When the vortex hits a user’s skin, the low pressure system inside a vortex collapses and imparts a force the user can feel. It is almost entirely 3D printed using a 3D printed enclosure, flexible nozzle and a pan and tilt gimbal structure capable of a 75-degree targeting field. Five actuators are mounted around the enclosure which displaces air from the enclosed volume, through the flexible nozzle and into the physical environment. The actuated flexible nozzle allows a vortex to be precisely delivered to any location in 3D space.

The device is driven by an MBED board which creates signal and that is amplified using 5 single channel 20W D-class amplifier chips by Texas Instruments. One amp per actuator, that are sub woffers. MBED also drives digital motors controlling the nozzle. There is a depth camera mounted on the device as well that is connected to the PC over USB. MBED is also connected over USB and communicate serially with the program running on a PC. The program on PC reads input from depth camera recognizes target, i.e. hand updates positions of the motors to point on the target by sending command to MBED and then sends command to MBED to shoot the air ring. The on-board depth camera and motors on enclosure are calibrated so that we can shoot to anything that depth camera sees.

You can read the full Siggraph paper here.

The Aireal project is being developed at Disney Research Pittsburgh by Rajinder SodhiIvan PoupyrevMatthew Glisson, and Ali Israr. Joanna Dauner and Alex Rothera joined the Aireal research team for the design and production of the SIGGRAPH 2013 Emerging Technologies Installation.

Project PageDisney Research


Free air haptics can be delivered to the real world where physical objects like a plant leaf can react to the movement of a virtual butterfly’s wings.


Different components of the device.


Persistent haptic spaces act as virtual 3D buttons allowing users to feel physical feedback when performing swipe gestures to scroll through images.


Creating a 3D persistent haptic environment where sensation can be delivered all around the user.


The device follows virtually projected objects and sensation can be delivered as objects move up the arm.


Texture simulation. As the user pans across the landscape, different sensations can be felt depending on the topography of the landscape.

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