You may not typically associate cutting-edge science and motion research with the company responsible for creating the most famous mouse couple in the world, but Disney Research has a tendency to shine on the technology front every now and again. Recently, the arm published a video detailing a new interactive, tactile experience in free air. The project is being titled Aireal, and it's described as a "new low cost, highly scalable haptic technology that delivers expressive tactile sensations in mid air."
Essentially, it enables users to feel virtual objects, experience dynamically varying textures and receive feedback on full body gestures, all without requiring the user to wear a physical device. It's designed to use a vortex, a ring of air that can travel large distances while keeping its shape and speed. When the vortex hits a user’s skin, the low pressure system inside a vortex collapses and imparts a force the user can feel. It's almost almost entirely 3D printed using a 3D printed enclosure, flexible nozzle and a pan and tilt gimbal structure capable of a 75-degree targeting field. Five actuators are mounted around the enclosure which displaces air from the enclosed volume, through the flexible nozzle and into the physical environment. The actuated flexible nozzle allows a vortex to be precisely delivered to any location in 3D space.
The project is said to be part of Disney's long term vision for crafting large-scale computer augmented environments which can deliver compelling interactive experiences seamlessly, everywhere and at anytime. Something tells us this will somehow get baked into the next iteration of 'It's A Small World,' wouldn't you think?