AIREAL is a novel haptic technology that delivers effective and expressive tactile sensations in free air, without requiring the user to wear a physical device. Combined with interactive computers graphics, AIREAL enables users to feel virtual 3D objects, experience free air textures and receive haptic feedback on gestures performed in free space. AIREAL relies on air vortex generation directed by an actuated flexible nozzle to provide effective tactile feedback with a 75 degrees field of view, and within an 8.5cm resolution at 1 meter. AIREAL is a scalable, inexpensive and practical free air haptic technology that can be used in a broad range of applications, including gaming, mobile applications, and gesture interaction among many others. This paper reports the details of the AIREAL design and control, experimental evaluations of the device’s performance, as well as an exploration of the application space of free air haptic displays. Although we used vortices, we believe that the results reported are generalizable and will inform the design of haptic displays based on alternative principles of free air tactile actuation.
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