A team of researchers from Japan has found a way to use a high-speed laser to create a touchable plasma display in mid-air.
Unlike many laser lights, these don't produce a burning sensation when touched. By upping the speed of the laser from a nanosecond to a femtosecond -- which is one millionth of one billionth of one second -- the researchers have increased the level of safety and made the floating images safe to touch.
These lasers do, however, generate haptic sensations, or "shock waves" that feel like an "impulse on the finger as if the light has physical substance," the researchers say.
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The team of researchers from the University of Tsukuba, Utsunomiya University, Nagoya Institute of Technology and the University of Tokyo believe their laser-induced plasma, which they've dubbed "Fairy Lights," has advantages over other 3-D displays.
For starters, it doesn't require physical matter arranged and suspended in air to emit light, and it doesn't require wires and structures that obstruct the line-of-sight. Laser-induced plasma can also be precisely controlled.
The researchers behind the project believe the technology has several applications, such as producing scalable augmented reality (AR), aerial user interfaces and volumetric images.
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Although the displays right now are tiny, at just eight cubic millimeters, there's hope that they will become larger as the technology progresses.
Furthermore, lessons from this experiment can also be expanded to other rendering principles such as fluorescence and microbubble in solid/liquid materials, according to the researchers.
Watch the video below for more.