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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