In my recent talk on Patenting trends for XR technologies at the 7th International XR Conference in Lisbon, one of the trends identified was the large number of patent filings relating to input/output technologies (such as eye/gaze tracking, haptic feedback devices, and the like) that help the virtual world become more interactive. These technologies help us, for example, to reach out and touch objects, select controls, and generally provide input, allowing us to interact with the virtual world rather than simply being a spectator in a 3D landscape.
With that in mind, it was fascinating to read this article about this interesting example of a phased ultrasound transducer array to provide haptic feedback through the mouth area of the user. The researchers have used the phased ultrasound transducer array attached to a VR headset to provide constructive interference in the mouth region, synchronised with the visual images provided by the headset, in order to provide sensations such as those associated with a stream of water when drinking, or raindrops, or even a bug crawling across the lips of the user! One of the great things about this technology is that the ultrasound transducer array is provided on the VR headset so that the user doesn't need to insert anything onto or into their mouth, which might be unappealing to many users.
Patenting is a key form of protection for innovative companies from small focussed innovators right up to tech-giants and so patent filing trends offer useful insights, and great innovation such as this seems to bear out those trends. With the key role that XR technologies such as this play in making the Metaverse more usable, it will be interesting to see what other input/output technologies come to the fore.