Scientists introduced a device that creates holograms using ultrasound & polystyrene ball

Nov 17, 2019 12 comments

Researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK have introduced technology that can create holograms using ultrasound and a 2mm polystyrene ball. They can move and interact with the observer.

Device that creates holograms.
Device that creates holograms | Science Hub.

Scientists called the new technology "multimodal acoustic trap display" (multimodal acoustic trap display, or MATD). Images are created between two horizontal plates on which many tiny ultrasound speakers are mounted. 

They create an inaudible sound field in which there is a "pocket" of low pressure, where a polystyrene ball enters. By moving the "pocket", you can move the ball, forming an image. Colors are added to the image using the projector.

Through careful monitoring of the ultrasound field, scientists can add sound effects and music to animated images. Vibrations can be adjusted to receive sound waves in the entire range of human hearing and, for example, to imitate clear speech. In addition, you can interact with images and even feel them in your own hands.

Device that creates holograms 2
A tactile 3D display, created with sound.
The prototype of the device, which scientists have presented, so far uses only one balloon and can create images inside an air cube with a side of 10 cm. But in the future, the researchers are sure, it will be possible to use more powerful converters with several balls at the same time to create large animations.

Device that creates holograms

Sriram Subramanyan, one of the authors of the technology, noted that such holograms can be used to create various forms of visual entertainment.

“Let's say you want to feel like Harry Potter. You can simply reach out, cast a spell, and a luminous ball will appear in your hand, which will even make a corresponding sound. ”

Ryuji Hirayama, co-author of the device, said the “multimodal display” is a step toward more complex systems. “I believe that in the future such displays will allow us to interact with family and friends, as if they were nearby so that we could see, touch and hear them,” he said.

During a demonstration of the new technology, scientists showed a butterfly flapping its wings, a clock hanging in the air and counting time, and a rotating, colorful Earth. 

According to Ewan Freeman of the University of Glasgow, the most interesting thing about the tactile component of the technology is that, unlike the simple vibrations that most people are familiar with through smartphones or game consoles, ultrasonic waves can convey sensations more accurately.

“In the future, this will make the tactile sensations of objects as rich and dynamic as the objects themselves that you see on the display.”

For the first time, such technology was introduced by engineers at the American University of Brigham Young, Utah. They used lasers to control a tiny particle in the air. Scientists at the University of Tokyo, who created a device called Haptoclone in 2015, also worked with lasers. However, according to the researchers themselves, their technology was expensive and not always safe .


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