Researchers Create Holograms You Can Touch — And Smell?

Holograms. They’re staples of science fiction and weird 1990s arcade cabinets. But how much longer will we have to wait for holograms we can physically interact with here in the real world?

Holograms we can actually touch and smell?

Well, perhaps you’re not interested in smelling a hologram, but Professor Ravinder Dahiya and his team of researchers over at the University of Glasgow have been working on a new system of holograms that uses something called aerohaptics. That means it creates the sensation of touch using “jets of air.”

The team’s method involves a “modern variation” of ye olde Pepper’s Ghost technique, employing glass, mirrors, and the Unity Game Engine to create the illusion of 3D objects. An open area allows users to insert their hands, where they can interact with virtual objects, while a sensor tracks their movements and an air nozzle “directs jets of air” to create sensations of touch.

One of the virtual objects is a simple basketball, which can be rolled around and bounced.

I wonder what else could be simulated in there. One example Dahiya uses is being able to feel the handshake of a long-distance virtual avatar (something along the lines of Google’s Project Starline with extra immersion). Even better, he suggests, aerohaptics could be our path — some time in the distant future — toward a functioning real-life 3D holodeck.

Dahiya says they’re working on adding sensations of hot and cold by adjusting the airflow’s temperature. And, since I know you’re really looking forward to this one, they’re also “exploring the possibility of adding scents to the airflow.”

So you can really, truly, touch and smell that virtual basketball.

You can check out their full study right over here.


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.