User experience enhancement using midair haptic feedback systems

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With haptic feedback, a computer or machine can ‘touch’ a user by triggering receptors in their skin. A new approach to haptic feedback is the use of ultrasonic waves to generate a local pressure field, causing the user to feel a light sensation. As this technique has not been fully explored, the SHAKE project will study the effects and application domains of midair haptics to create a convincing and “pressable” virtual button.

Touching without contact

The field of human-machine interfacing is a hot topic as more processes are automated in a wide range of industries. Haptic feedback, such as the vibration of mobile phones, allows a machine to ‘touch’ its operator to convey information. However, novel non-contact approaches are emerging in which there is no direct contact between the computer and the user’s skin. These technologies rely on the generation of midair feedback to elicit a sensation, but little is known about the user experience of ultrasonic wave-generated midair haptics.

Designing a convincing virtual button

An interdisciplinary group of experts from fields as diverse as user experience, augmented reality, acoustics, software and hardware development make up the SHAKE consortium. They will develop a safe virtual button and accompanying hardware and software that offers a convincing button-pressing experience through both visual and haptic elements.

Three exploration angles

The SHAKE consortium will study the user experience of midair haptics in three ways:

1) exploring application domains and interaction panels through four co-design workshops;

2) experiments to study experiences of midair haptics between users in a controlled lab environment, including response to intensity and patterns;

3) evaluating the experience of virtual buttons in a company-relevant environment through contextual tests of large numbers of users.

Expanding the midair haptics knowledge base

In addition to the creation of a virtual button, the project will enable members of the SHAKE consortium to broaden their understanding of haptic feedback systems and determine the market value of practical applications. A user safety report will also be written, as well as guidelines for the future use of midair haptic feedback.

“The SHAKE project will study the effects and possible applications of midair haptics generated by focused ultrasonic waves, combining haptic and visual feedback to create a convincing and ‘pressable’ virtual button.”

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User experience enhancement using midair haptic feedback systems.

SHAKE is an imec.icon research project funded by imec, Innoviris and Agentschap Innoveren & Ondernemen.

It started on 01.06.2018 and ran until 31.05.2020.

Project information


  • Nokia
  • NXP Semiconductors België
  • Verhaert New Products & Services


  • imec - LAE
  • imec - LST
  • imec - KULeuven - mintlab


  • Project Lead: Bert Braeckman
  • Research Lead: David Geerts
  • Proposal Manager: David Cheyns
  • Innovation Manager: Eric Moons