Aireal: Interactive Tactile Experiences in Free Air

Project Members

Rajinder Sodhi (Disney Research Pittsburgh)
Ivan Poupyrev (Disney Research Pittsburgh)
Matt Glisson (Disney Research Pittsburgh)
Ali Israr (Disney Research Pittsburgh)
Joanna Dauner (Disney Research Pittsburgh)
Alexander Rothera (Disney Research Pittsburgh)


[Press Release]

AIREAL is a new low cost, highly 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. AIREAL is 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. The AIREAL technology 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.

AIREAL is part of our long term vision for creating large-scale computer augmented environments which can deliver compelling interactive experiences seamlessly, everywhere and at anytime. Free air tactile feedback technology is a key element of these future interactive spaces with a wide range of applications including gaming and story telling, mobile interfaces, and gesture control among many others.


AIREAL Device with Smoke Ring

The AIREAL device emits a ring of air called a vortex towards a user’s hand. The vortex can impart a force on the user’s hand, enabling a range of dynamic free air sensations.

AIREAL Illustration

A fully assembled AIREAL device. Aside from the motors and speakers, the majority of the device is 3D printed.

Vortex Theory

A volume of air is pushed out of the enclosure and pinches off from the aperture of the nozzle, resulting in a ring of air directed at an object in 3D space.

Target Experiment

A paper target was used to measure the accuracy performance. We show the target at its resting and hit state.

Butterfly Illustration

An illustration showing how a virtual butterfly can deliver free air sensations using two or more AIREAL devices.

Continuous Illustration

Continuous free air sensations can be felt around the user with multiple AIREAL devices synchronously communicating with each other.

Mobile Device

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

3D Printed Sensor Reflector

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.

AIREAL Soccer Coming From TV

Multiple AIREAL devices can work together to support a tactile feedback when a user interacts with a virtual soccer ball.

3D Printed Character

An exploded view, showing the 3D printed enclosure, the speakers, pan and tilt motors, gimbal strucutre and flexible nozzle.

Nozzle Set

The various nozzle shapes and apertures tested and the final nozzle selection and its flexible equivalent.

Targeting Field

The spatial accuracy measurement shows red circles which act as targets for the vortices emitted from the flexible aperture.

Projected Butterfly

A projected butterfly is simultaneously collocated with free air sensations simulating a real butterfly on a user’s hand.

Continuous Interaction

A user plays a game where a virtual seagull flies around the user’s head, simulating the wake of the seagull.

Surface Interaction

Free air sensations can be delivered to a user that map to a wide range of textures. Here a user can control a virtual character moving over textures such as water and grass.



AIREAL- Interactive Tactile Experiences in Free Air-Thumbnail

AIREAL: Interactive Tactile Experiences in Free Air
July 22, 2013
Paper File [pdf, 21.14 MB]

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