Clever illusions give new IT devices a sensory dimension

Clever illusions give new IT devices a sensory dimension

TOKYO - Companies and universities in Japan are developing devices that make use of perceptual illusions, tricking the user into perceiving things that are not there.

For example, display devices that produce three-dimensional images using optical illusions are starting to make their way onto the market, along with navigation systems that physically draw the user toward their destination. The devices' developers aim to create new markets by playing on the human brain's latent capabilities to provide previously unknown experiences.

NTT Communication Science Laboratories has developed a smartphone component that induces the feeling of someone pulling one's hand. When a smartphone linked to the global positioning system (GPS) is equipped with the device, it can give the sensation of being led by the hand to the destination.

The device works like this: When something moves rapidly at the fingertips, they become very sensitive and cautious, while at the same time becoming dulled to slower movements. The new technology capitalizes on this phenomenon. The component is designed so that a drive device linked to a motor inside makes only repeated back-and-forth motions, but briefly moves noticeably faster in one direction. To the fingers holding the component, it feels as though they are being pulled in one direction. If the way the component moves is changed, the fingers feel like they are being pulled in all directions. The company hopes to commercialize the device in a few years.

NTT and a group led by associate professor Hideyuki Ando of Osaka University have conceived a device that can make a three-dimensional image fly up before a person's eyes when he or she passes multiple bars arranged in a row. Text and images can be seen when the viewer walks within 5 metres of the bars.

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