Ultrasound haptic technology could revolutionise man-machine interaction

Advanced haptic technology, which enables users to touch virtual objects in mid-air, could change the way we interact with everything from kitchen appliances to cars its UK inventors have claimed.

Developed by Bristol start-up Ultrahaptics – which was spun out of work at Bristol University’s Bristol Interaction and Graphics (BIG) Laboratory – the technology uses a complex suite of algorithms and an array of ultrasound emitters to produce the sensation of touch.

Critically, unlike other haptic control systems, the technology enables users to receive tactile feedback without needing to wear or touch anything physical, and has recently been awarded a patent for the innovation.


The team – which has won the 2016 Royal Academy of Engineering Colin Campbell Mitchell Award for its work – claims that is particularly well suited to the automotive industry, where intuitive gesture control systems could help improve road-safety.

The Ultrahaptic team is already working with engineers at Jaguar Land Rover on a mid-air touch system for its Predictive Infotainment Screen. The technology is also thought to have huge potential in the consumer appliance and gaming industries.

Commenting on the opportunity Mike Tobin OBE, Ultrahaptic’s Chairman said: “From home audio to kitchen appliances and from cars to laptops, this team of engineers’ achievement is changing the way we interact with technology in our day-to-day lives.”