05 December 2014

An Ultrasound Producing 3D Shapes in Mid Air? Seems Legitimate!

Have you had diagnostic examination using ultrasound before? If you had, then you know that ultrasound produces images of the internal aspect of the human body. More to this is your basic knowledge about this medical term which also produces sound waves.

Do you know that it can also create 3D shapes that enable you to optimize your senses? Certainly, a new technique in ultrasound has been developed to generate some floating 3D shapes that can be seen and be felt in mid-air. This new technique is made possible through the continuous efforts of the University of Bristol’s researchers.

Photo credit: screenshot of youtube video by BristolIG (Bristol Interaction and Graphics group), University of Bristo

Ultrasound is a machine which is commonly used for pregnant women in their baby’s gender detection. But this does not only limit its capabilities for certain people because it can also be used in some cases other than its sole purpose. 

The researchers used arrays of ultrasonic transducers in creating and focusing compound patterns of ultrasound to shape the air towards its direction. In between the process, illumination existed in making visible shapes. This happened when the manipulated air was directed through curtain of oil and a lamp. 

The illumination resulted to a system that produces accurate and identifiable shapes. This allows the users to easily match with that of 3D objects to the shape rendered by the prototype ultrasound system. 

Dr. Ben Long, Research Assistant from the Bristol Interaction and Graphics (BIG) department at the University of Bristol, claimed that the possible ways of using the system pertains to holograms that are touchable, immersive virtual reality that can be felt and complex touchable controls in free space. 

This new technique in ultrasound does not use around 40 kHz of the ultrasound frequency. Instead, it sets up vibrations in the air upon which the arrays are being focused so it can produce sensations fluctuating in different directions from around 0.4 kHz to 500 Hz. By this, the user can recognize the shape of the object similar to the feeling when a solid object is touched. The researchers then believe that this innovation can benefit various fields more likely with the benefits that haptic feedback can give. 

Watch it here:


This new technique in ultrasound allows the surgeon to feel whether the patient has abnormalities or tumors. More than these advantages, there will be a lot more systems that researchers are looking forward to. 

This research is published in the latest issue of the journal ACM Transactions in Graphics. Dr. Ben Long, along with his great and knowledgeable companions, has gone through methodical and systematic approach for this modernization. With the swift course of technology, more inventions and techniques are yet to come.


Reference: [1]

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