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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Haptics are already being built into clothing but this is a new and interesting take on the technology.

 

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Ever wanted the feelings of spiders in and around your mouth on demand, whenever you want? Well you’re in luck, you wonderful weirdo, because Virtual Reality (VR) is coming to the rescue.

 

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New haptic technologies, that let you feel things that aren’t there like a hug from a remote friend or a rugby tackle from someone in another city, are always being worked into VR, and according to IFLScience, a group of scientists from Carnegie Mellon University’s Future Interfaces Group are truly going above and beyond. The team has fitted an Oculus Quest 2 with ultrasonic transducers, which can generate ultrasonic energy and weirdly it’s the same kind of ultrasound technology used to create tractor beams, yes … really. For some reason, they’ve pointed this straight at the mouth to add unique sensations to the VR experience.

The energy directed onto your mouth creates sensations that can be pulsations, or swiping motions across the lips, or ongoing vibrations, all at different speeds and intensities. It’s said that these can approximate real feelings like wind, or perhaps, yes, even spiders.

 

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I keep coming back to the spiders because that’s one of the demos depicted in the video. It shows someone walking through a haunted forest with spiderwebs and how the swiping motion is used by the ultrasonic transducers to mimic the feel of web brushing across your face. Then a spider jumps onto the player and more haptics are engaged so you can really feel all eight of those legs trying to enter your unwilling mouth.

Calmer, less completely insane iterations involved simulating a water fountain against the users’ lips, or the feeling of drinking a coffee. It does seems like there could be plenty of uses for this new kind of mouth focussed haptic feedback – especially as we see more researchers around the world developing virtual foods, which this tech could compliment nicely.

 

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It would be even more interesting, however, to see if this tech could be integrated with other recently tested haptics. Researchers are working on chemical haptics for sensations like cold and heat, which could potentially up the effectiveness of those drink simulations. There’s also speculation about virtual kissing booths, but I think I’ll stick to spiders for now.

The team behind the ultrasonic transducers conducted surveys after people experienced the new sensations. Generally speaking the immersion was boosted by having these new mouth-feels introduced to VR. Given they can be attached to any headset, these might actually make their way to the general public, though we don’t expect to see them any time soon.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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