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AIREAL - Tactile gaming tech using air vortices, by Disney

by Mark Tyson on 26 July 2013, 11:00

Tags: Disney

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A new technology aimed at delivering more immersive experiences from what is going on on-screen has been developed by Disney. The device providing the magic is called the AIREAL and it uses "a new haptic technology designed to let users feel free air sensations in the physical world without any instrumentation on the user's body." A gamer playing a motion controlled game title, for example, will feel some feedback from AIREAL appropriate to his actions. This might be the feeling of stopping a ball crossing the goal-line or being alerted by a 'bullet' flying past your ear lobe.

"In the future we see AIREAL technology helping to bridge the virtual and physical worlds in new and exciting ways".

To deliver the tactile feedback to the right special area quickly AIREAL uses compressed air "in the form of a vortex ring". In the video you can see this in action as the scientists have made AIREAL 'smoke some cigarettes' before the demonstration.

The vortex ring is supplied from the AIREAL device which uses an arrangement of five speakers pointing to a central area inside the device to create the air pulse. The air vortex is projected at the appropriate space around the user from the AIREAL nozzle which is directed by the small 3D depth camera attached to it.

The vortices can travel faster and more accurately than similar attempts made using air jets, while maintaining its shape and speed. The AIREAL working range is up to 1.5m. "When the vortex hits a user’s skin, the low pressure system inside a vortex collapses and imparts a force the user can feel." Disney has successfully used the AIREAL on its own or in an arrangement of up to five units working together. It is said to be a low cost solution, Disney informs us that the current AIREAL devices are "almost entirely 3D printed".

The idea of tactile feedback when using motion control sounds fascinating. How effective it is in practicality can only be judged really by experience. A short video over on Engadget shows the device exhibited at SIGGRAPH where the Disney team demonstrates a butterfly fluttering about on a user's arm. The virtual butterfly felt like "a soft air puff" fluttering on his hand according to a tester.

HEXUS Forums :: 8 Comments

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Not sure whether to be intrigued or utterly creeped-out by this.

It's got all the hallmarks, to me at least, of one of those “we were bored and needed something to patent” kind of inventions. And I'm assuming the need for multiple units means it's not going to be a cheap product either.

Can't see it taking off for home use - but it could be a great thing in a theme park ride perhaps.
Reminds me of amBX's fan components, only with more backing and potential to actually go somewhere
I can see some industries where this kind of tech could take off…. Not sure about home gaming, but something “cinematic” could probably use it…

So you have your Leap controller in the middle of the floor air blowers dotted around the room within a metre of you. Sounds like a H&S nightmare!
Buy this now and receive 5 boxes full of air for free, so your air sensations never end.

These kind of inventions are ridiculous, I don't see any point in owning.
I shall now attempt to defend what I see as a good idea.

a while ago, a speaker company placed fans into their speakers… and with the right software, the plan was that as a 5.1 speaker system for pc gaming has the 5 speakers that aim at you could blow air into your face….they'd relate to speed, movement, explosions and so forth. I never had a play with it… I regret that… it was a good idea.

but a fan can't thump you … not even gently. it can only blow you.

however…. if I've got this right…. this new toy uses the principle used by Airzooka…. a thump of air in a kind of …. pocket.

google it if you don't understand what an airzooka is…. trust me… the one foot diameter 'zooka that I owned hit people in the face across a garden ….. with enough force to make them gasp.

mini version of that, in a room, close…..

would rock!