Surround Haptics is a new tactile technology that uses a low-resolution grid of vibrating actuators to create high-resolution, continuous moving tactile strokes on human skin. The user would not feel the discrete buzzes that are common today, but rather a smooth tactile motion, akin to what we feel when someone drags a finger across our skin.
Our technology is based on modeling and controlling tactile illusions, which allow to create virtual, phantom tactile actuators and movements anywhere on an actuator grid. With that, complex tactile trajectories can be created using just a few actuators. Their speed, direction, length, and intensity can be effectively controlled. We called the algorithm implementing such tactile drawing a Tactile Brush.
There are many applications of Surround Haptics. Imagine a chair that makes you feel bugs crawling on your back as you watch a movie. A motorcycle jacket that lets you feel the traffic around you. A game controller that lets you feel forces as you are cutting objects with a virtual sword. There are endless possibilities.
The Surround Haptics technology was developed by Ali Israr and myself in the Interaction Group at Disney Research Pittsburgh. A paper describing Tactile Brush algorythm was presented at the ACM CHI 2011 conference.
See Surround Haptics web site for details on technology, videos and images.