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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N014197/1
Title: User Interaction with self-supporting free-form physical objects
Principal Investigator: Subramanian, Professor S
Other Investigators:
Drinkwater, Professor B
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Engineering and Informatics
Organisation: University of Sussex
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 March 2016 Ends: 31 August 2019 Value (£): 1,023,446
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Acoustics Human-Computer Interactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
04 Sep 2015 User Interaction with ICT Panel - Full Proposals Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The primary goal of this project is enhance human-computer interaction by dynamically creating and manipulating physical shapes by levitating and moving a large collections of lightweight 3D objects using principles of acoustic levitation. The proposed idea is illustrated in Figure 1 where one ultrasound transducers is placed as a floor mat and a large collection of polystyrene beads create the shape of a dog that can wag its tail.

This will enable us to represent complex datasets in a physical form and allow users to dynamically manipulate it. We are now moving away from traditional human-computer interaction techniques like buttons, keyboards and mice to touch (e.g., Smartphones and multi-touch gestures) and touchless interactions (as with the Kinect and Leap Motion controllers). The limiting factor in these new forms of interactions is, ironically, the lack of any physicality and lack of any co-located feedback. One has no controller or interface element to physically touch and interact with and the visual feedback that may be available is disconnected from the location of the gesture.

In our vision, the computer will control the existence, form, and appearance of complex levitating objects composed of "levitating atoms". Users can reach into the levitating matter, feel it, manipulate it, and hear how they deform it with all feedback originating from the levitating object's position in mid-air, as it would with objects in real life. This will change how people use technology as they can interact with technology in the same way they would with real objects in their natural environment.

We see many possible benefits of physicalisations for the individual and society: they make data more accessible by leveraging our perceptual exploration skills via active perception, depth perception, non-visual senses, and intermodal perception; give novel exploration possibilities to the visually impaired; support learning via cognitive benefits of direct manipulation of physical artefacts; bring data to the real world for communication and exhibition and; and finally act as tools for engaging audiences with information.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.sussex.ac.uk