Our expert team leverages theories and tools from acoustics to implement all of the components for this system in a radically new approach. In particular, we draw on ultrasound beam-forming and manipulation techniques to create acoustic forces that levitate particles as well as project directional audio cues by making ultrasound audible through non-linear de-modulation in air.

Already, by using our advanced phased arrays of ultrasound transducers, we can levitate multiple objects that can be individually controlled. Next, these objects will be given the affordances of physical objects using ultrasound-induced tactile feedback during user manipulations. Finally, we will demonstrate that the levitating atoms can each become sound sources through the use of parametric audio with our ultrasound array serving as the carrier of the audible sound. In addition, we will also visually project onto the objects to create a rich multimodal display levitated in three-dimensional space.

There are numerous applications for this advanced display technology in all aspects of human interaction with computers. For example, instead of having to reach for an iDrive dial in a car, users may just reach out and the dial is created directly under their hand. Instead of controlling a virtual character on a TV screen when playing a tennis video game, players could hold a real physical racket in their hand and play with a ball made of levitating particles whose behaviour is controlled digitally. Instead of interacting with a virtual representation of a protein behind a computer screen, scientists could gather around a physical representation of the protein in mid-air, reach into it to fold it in different ways, and draw other proteins closer to see, feel and hear how they interact. The flexible medium of floating particles could be used by artists to create new forms of digital interactive installations for public spaces. Finally, engineers could directly walk with their clients around virtual prototypes floating in mid-air, while both are able to reach into the model and change it as they go.