Intel IQ: New Touch Technology Blends The Line Between Physical And Virtual

With Disney’s new Revel technology, any object can take on the texture of any other object.

When is an apple not an apple and an orange not an orange? When you think that apple is an orange. No, this isn’t some kind Alice in Wonderland-like riddle, but with Disney’s new Revel technology, any object can take on the texture of any other object—making an apple actually feel like an orange or, say, a carved piece of wood actually feel like it’s slimy, scaly, real-life counterpart.

Haptic feedback technology has been around for some time. It’s a useful way of replacing a missing sensory experience. Vibrating controllers for video games are a common iteration. And so are the buzzing ‘keyboards’ on tablets and smartphones. But with REVEL, Disney Research has proposed more than just an update to existing hardware; this innovation has the potential to change what we expect from our inanimate objects.

How does it work? REVEL is a wearable technology that, according to the research paper published by PostDoctoral Research Scientist Olivier Bau and Ivan Poupyrev, Senior Research Scientist, both for Walt Disney Research in Pittsburgh, PA, “injects a weak electrical signal anywhere on the user’s body creating an oscillating electrical field around the user’s fingers.” When the wearer touches a compatible object a feeling of friction is created—kind of like static electricity—by manipulating the signal, that feeling is manipulated in turn, creating a huge range of possible tactile ‘feelings’.

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