Aireal is a device that uses speakers to generate vortices that create haptic feedback in free air. It was selected as one of the "Most Amazing New Interfaces of 2013" by Fastcompany.
I was the lead engineer on the Aireal project; I designed and built all the devices used during the research and SIGGRAPH demonstration. This included rapidly prototyping a number of different configurations as well as optimizing the nozzle for accuracy and impact force. I was awarded a Disney Inventor award for my work on the project.
The Aireal device forming a smoke ring
after being filled with smoke
I designed Aireal to be a modular, robust device that could be both quickly modified and strong enough to withstand extended use and travel.
I produced the devices with a 3D printer to allow for the rapid production of new configurations. We experimented with a number of different speakers, nozzle designs, and servo-motors, producing many iterations as the project developed.
I created a series of different nozzle shapes and tested each one for accuracy and strength. Based on the data, I selected the nozzle shape that demonstrated the best balance between these two traits. I conducted another series of experiments using this shape but varying the diameter of the opening of the nozzle to further improve accuracy and strength.
A sample of the different nozzle designs tested for Aireal
The top nozzle design alongside its flexible version
Once I determined the ideal nozzle shape the next step was to make it mobile. I wanted the vortices to be easily and quickly aimed in different directions so I designed an articulated gimbal to hold the nozzle. The nozzle itself was kept as light as possible to reduce the moment of inertia and it was connected to the main chamber by a flexible bellows. The majority of the assembly was 3D printed, including the bellows.
The flexible bellows proved to be the most difficult to design since the support material from the printer would become embedded in, and destroy, the thin membrane. I adjusted the printing process and the support material to create a viable nozzle.
We were invited to show Aireal at SIGGRAPH's Emerging Technology. I created and built much of the infrastructure for our installation and collaborated with SIGGRAPH organizers to install Aireal. We received uniformly positive feedback from the SIGGRAPH community as well as articles in magazines such as Wired and Engadget.
Disney is currently patenting the Aireal technology.
The Aireal demo at SIGGRAPH 2013