Scientists create a holo-basketball that rolls and bounces

Researchers at the University of Glasgow create a system that uses jets of air called “aerohaptics”, allowing users to actually feel a hologram.

“Those jets of air deliver a sensation of touch on people’s fingers, hands, and wrists,” wrote researcher Ravinder Daahiya in his piece for The Conversation. “In time, this could be developed to allow you to meet a virtual avatar of a colleague on the other side of the world and really feel their handshake. It could even be the first steps towards building something like a holodeck.”

The invention consists of a nozzle that blows air with an appropriate amount of force onto the user in response to the movements of their hands. Daahiya and his team used an interactive projection of a basketball to test their new system. The ball can be convincingly touched and even rolled and bounced.

“The touch feedback from air jets from the system is also modulated based on the virtual surface of the basketball, allowing users to feel the rounded shape of the ball as it rolls from their fingertips when they bounce it and the slap in their palm when it returns,” Daahiya explained.

The TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced millions of people to the idea of a holodeck: an immersive, realistic 3D holographic projection of a complete environment that you could interact with and even touch.

In the 21st century, holograms are already being used in a variety of ways such as medical systems, education, art, security and defence. Scientists are still developing ways to use lasers, modern digital processors, and motion-sensing technologies to create several different types of holograms which could change the way we interact.”

The hologram is a modern variation on a 19th-century illusion technique known as Pepper’s Ghost, which thrilled Victorian theatregoers with visions of the supernatural onstage. Technically this is a pseudo-hologram, good for entertainment and some research.

The user feels air pressure as they reach for the illusion

The system uses glass and mirrors to make a two-dimensional image that appears to hover in space. Without the need for any additional equipment. And the haptic feedback is created with nothing but air, and a computer controlled nozzle.

The researchers are now looking to modify the temperature of the airflow. This allows users to feel hot or cold surfaces and exploring the possibility of adding scents to the airflow. All these elements will make for a more realistic immersive experience.

Daahiya claims the new holographic technology could make for better video games without cumbersome suits and more convincing teleconferencing. He also claims his invention has medical uses for better patient treatment allowing them to, for instance, feel a region.

There are other teams creating holograms you can feel. A Japanese team made the Haptoclone for the Siggraph convention in 2015 that used ultrasound to stimulate the user’s hand.


In 2019, researchers at the University of Sussex created animated 3D holograms that can not only be seen from any angle, they can also be touched. These holograms are formed by two arrays of ultrasonic transducers generating soundwaves used to float and control a lightweight polystyrene beads just two millimeters across. This system also generates audible sound with image and touch.

We’re still waiting for a holodeck. Make it so!


David Raiklen
David Raiklen

David Raiklen wrote, directed and scored his first film at age 9. He began studying keyboard and composing at age 5. He attended, then taught at UCLA, USC and CalArts. Among his teachers are John Williams and Mel Powel.
He has worked for Fox, Disney and Sprint. David has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2004 American Music Center Award. Dr. Raiklen has composed music and sound design for theater (Death and the Maiden), dance (Russian Ballet), television (Sing Me a Story), cell phone (Spacey Movie), museums (Museum of Tolerance), concert (Violin Sonata ), and film (Appalachian Trail).
His compositions have been performed at the Hollywood Bowl and the first Disney Hall. David Raiken is also host of a successful radio program, Classical Fan Club.