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Untethered Force Feedback Interface That Uses Air Jets
This is an untethered interface that eliminates the annoyance of wires and other connectors by using air jets to establish force feedback. Attendees experience interaction with a virtual object that responds to being "touched." The sense of touch is provided by air jets, while visual clues are provided by a projection-based stereo display.

Life Enhancement
Many devices created to realize force feedback demand the use of connecting wires and/or demand that the participant wear a heavy device. Both of these requirements disturb the user's free movement and raise the level of annoyance. Compared to the tools used in daily life, existing VR systems leave a lot to be desired. We focus on acceptance of VR systems, so we concentrate on eliminating anything that restrains the user. A tool will not become part of daily life if it is seen as an encumbrance. Our keyword is "untethered."

Provision of unencumbered touch will augment the sense of vision to make virtual environments an everyday occurrence. The most exciting new possibility provided by our system is its freedom in range of experience. For instance, we can imagine this system being installed in large areas or buildings to enrich user experience and establish interaction over extended distances. Multiple users can participate in the same game when nozzles are placed in strategic locations. Users can enjoy interaction with a virtual object while walking along a hallway. The area of a single array is not limited; some applications may require only one air jet, while others may need several hundred. This system is still quite primitive, and more research should yield an interface with better feel and less noise. Even in its present form, it provides an excellent indication of what is possible and VR's potential to enter daily life.

The prime goal is a force-feedback interface that dispenses with all tethers. Users need only red-and-blue 3D glasses and a lightweight paddle. This system does not constrain the user's activity, and it is comfortable.

The major component is the force-feedback interface. The basic idea of this method is that air released from a jet impacts the "air receiver" (paddle) held by the user to provide force feedback. The demonstration system uses a flat, 2D array of air jets that point upward to create the feel of touching three-dimensional virtual objects. The system detects the air receiver's position, determines if it is "contacting" the surface of a virtual object in the virtual space, and if contact exists, releases air from the nozzle immediately under the air receiver. The release of air continues until the air receiver is removed from the surface or is moved to a new position on the surface. In the latter case, the system releases air from the next appropriate nozzle.

The second component is the projection-based stereo display system. Stereo images are projected onto the top surface of the desk. The black air-jet holes on the surface are covered with simple flaps so that the stereo images projected on the desk are not degraded.

The third component is the optical position-tracking system. The user's 3D glasses and paddle have visual markers, and their positions and orientations are detected by two cameras.

These three components realize a completely wire-free interface. The user simply puts on the lightweight 3D glasses and holds the lightweight paddle. The user is not prevented from moving freely within the system, and is never bothered by system operation. The system is completely devoid of user restraints.

Tuesday, 10 August
10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room 404AB

Yuriko Suzuki
NTT Cyber Solutions Laboratories

Satoshi Iwaki
Minoru Kobayashi
Akira Nakayama
Yoshihiro Shimada
NTT Cyber Solutions Laboratories

emerging technologies jury and committee
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Conference 8-12 August, Exhibition 10-12 August.  In Los Angeles, CA