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Tokyo student invents levitation in 3D space

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A Tokyo student along with fellow researchers has managed to float objects in a 3D space, using ultrasound.

Yoichi Ochiai, a University of Tokyo graduate, together with Takayuki Hoshi and Jun Rekimoto, have found out the way to levitate light objects and move them around in a 3D space.

Even though ultrasound levitation has been possible for nearly 40 years, Ochiai says this is still new.

“Nobody was able to move objects in a 3D space,” he says.

“I think as long as objects don’t move in a 3D environment, there’s not much use for this kind of technology, and my research here at Tokyo University was the first to pull it off.”

At the University of Tokyo Komaba campus, Ochiai’s installation is used to transport small white particles up, down and sideways, as if attached to a moving invisible net.

The device consists of four boards facing inwards, each equipped with multiple speakers. According to Ochiai, when he cranks up the wave frequency, ultrasound standing waves are capable of suspending lightweight objects in mid-air.

He then manipulates the ultrasound with his computer to move the suspended objects as if by magic.

“The benefit of sound waves is that you could control it very precisely,” says Ochiai.

“For example, you could pass something that is only one millimeter through something that is one millimeter, or move things only a few millimeters. So the pixels for screens and material in the electronics industry can be very small, but I feel like ultrasound is the best option available to move them around precisely.”


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