But the one thing that has always been in the back of my mind regarding gesture controls is how society will deal with a lack of tactile feedback. Tactile feedback has always been a part of how humans interact with data entry and computer navigation, from the keyboard, to the mouse, to touchscreens. We’ve always been able to actually “touch” what we wanted to interact with. Gesture controls like the Kinect leave us flailing our arms in the air with no frame of reference for if we’ve actually “touched” what we were wanted to.
Disney’s AIREAL air pulse feedback system aims to put an end to that, and even reshape our interactivity with other aspects of our lives. The technology uses small jets that puff out air at high enough speeds to create a sense of resistance on something you “touch” while using gesture controls. Fitted with enough actuators and sufficiently advanced programming to anticipate your hand movements and get a perfect pulse of air to your fingertips when you put them there, this little device could solve the problem of the vagueness with gesture controls.
While it still needs more development and clever engineering to package it in a more minimalist, unobtrusive piece of tech that can merge seamlessly with our home electronics, this is technology will definitely become as commonplace as the mouse.
This technology can even be applied to video games controls, and could be a perfect answer to the need for tactile sensations in the emerging virtual reality scene. This air-pulse system could even be installed in amusement parks to add subtle effects that heighten and enhance the sensory experience. Just imagine a haunted house fitted with these things that can make you feel like “something” brushed your hair, or scurried through your legs. In the long run, this could be the foundational technology that allows a fully immersive virtual reality experiences similar to Star Trek’s holodeck!