This week the interns got to use the touch development kit (TDK) from Ultrahaptics. This kit uses ultrasound to produce 2D mid-air haptic feedback, imitating the sensation of touch without the need for a physical material.

The interns started by downloading the recommended drivers and the ‘Ultrahaptics Demo Suite’. The provided demo contained examples such as bubble popping, button pressing, and sliding switches, and allowed the interns to see what the device was capable of.

After this, the interns were eager to begin their own project. With the help of the provided SDK from the Ultrahaptics developers website, basic demos were set up in minutes. These primarily consisted of 2D shapes moving on a plane, but after some research and a few brainstorming sessions, more advanced demonstrations were achieved.

The final project contained 9 separate demo scenes;

  • Moving Circle – A single haptic point moving in a circle the user could feel.
  • Moving Circle Small – The same principle, but the point was smaller and quicker.
  • Five Point circle – A five point moving circle.
  • Palm Tracker – An invisible ‘haptic ball’ consistently within the users palm.
  • Slider – A haptic ball the user could actively move around the scene with their hand.
  • Target Practice – The same principle, but points were awarded for moving the ball through the hoop, the hoop was indicated in the haptics array by a point circling the perimeter.
  • Squiggle – The same principle as ‘Slider’, but two haptic balls could be moved, each producing a rainbow trail.
  • 2D ‘Whack-A-Mole’ – The infamous ‘whack-a-mole’ game, but using rabbits. The randomly appearing rabbits were restricted to one plane.
  • Ghostbusters – The infamous ‘whack-a-mole’ game, but using ghosts that appeared at varying heights.
  • Butterfly – A flying butterfly that would land on the users index finger when extended, producing a light haptic feeling on that fingertip.

The interns found the haptics device had strengths and limitations.

The Leap Motion controller tracked hand movements very well, but did sometimes struggle with multiple hands active simultaneously.

Control points on the Ultrahaptics array could be placed upto a significant distance away, however many comments were made by those experiencing the demos that the points were somewhat ‘fuzzy’, with ambient ultrasound causing ‘random’ extra haptic points. Demos where the player was expecting a lighter sensation/interaction, such as with Butterfly, worked better than those where they tried to ‘hold’ the point, such as Slider.

There was also a limit to the number of control points that could be drawn at any one time, the documentation detailing these specifications were quite limited.

Overall, the TDK, Leap Motion controller, and SDK were an impressive combination, allowing the interns to have fun developing several interesting demos very rapidly. General feedback during the ‘Tech Play Friday’ session was positive, generating many laughs with people taken aback at squishing rabbits and exploding butterflies.

If you happen to have an Ultrahaptics touch development kit lying around you can download the demo created here.