Japanese firm showcases ‘touchable’ 3-D technology


Unveiling technology that generates touchable 3-D imagery, developers said Monday objects that only exist in the virtual world could be manipulated as if they were real.

Officials of Miraisens, a high-tech firm based outside Tokyo, said the technology, which can be used to improve the gaming experience or allow someone to physically shape objects that exist only on a computer, will soon be available for purchase.

“Touching is an important part of human communication, but until now virtual reality has lacked it,” Chief Executive Natsuo Koda said.

“This technology will give you a sense that you can touch objects in the 3-D world,” said Koda, a former virtual reality researcher for Sony Corp.

It works by fooling the brain, blending what the eye sees with different patterns of vibration created by a small fingertip device, said Norio Nakamura, the inventor of so-called 3D-Haptics Technology and chief technical officer at the firm.

In one demonstration of a prototype head-mounted display, the company showed how the wearer can feel resistance by pushing virtual buttons.

Miraisens is a spinoff of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology based in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture.

The firm says it wants to commercialize its world-first technology through applications in electronics and the services industry. The system can be built into devices of various shapes, including coins, sticks and pens. Company officials say they can foresee a number of uses for the technology.

For example, a video gamer could feel a response through the game controller to certain actions within the game, they said.

It could also be used to create complicated data that could be fed into a 3-D printer, allowing a child, say, to model a virtual dinosaur and then watch it come into existence.

Other applications might include helping doctors perform surgery remotely, or putting tactile feedback canes in the hands of the visually impaired.