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The future at our fingertips

Sriran Subramanian, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction in the Bristol Interaction and Graphics (BIG) group

Press release issued: 10 September 2014

The ability for users to be more expressive when interacting with a device or system without touching it will be described by Professor Sriram Subramanian at the World Economic Forum meeting of the New Champions 2014 to be held in Tianjin, China this week [10-12 September 2014].

Sriran Subramanian, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction in the Bristol Interaction and Graphics (BIG) group at the University of Bristol will talk on Wednesday [10 September] about tomorrow’s consumer technology and whether the future will be touch or touchless.

As one of only a handful of Young Scientists selected to give a talk, Professor Subramanian will articulate his vision to an international audience of senior political and business leaders. 

Professor Subramanian’s talk will discuss UltraHaptics, an invention by the BIG group that not only allows people to feel what is on an interactive surface, but also receive invisible information before they touch it.  This has been achieved by reflecting air pressure waves off the hand in a way that can create different sensations for each fingertip. The system can be deployed to work in a range of scenarios such as gaming, automotive and home appliances. 

Professor Subramanian said: “We are entering a new world of interactive games and experiences where users can wave and interact through touch-free gestures. A difficulty with touch-free interaction is that often users don’t have any tactile feedback. In other words, they have no sense of having touched the object and struggle to know whether they have selected the virtual interface or not.  UltraHaptics brings back the sense of touch to touchless interfaces by creating the magical experience of feeling without touching. ”

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions provides a platform for the rising generation of global leaders from business and society to contribute to broader policy discussions and engage with the world’s top business executives. The New Champions are led by the Forum’s growing Global Growth Companies Community as well as the communities of Technology Pioneers, Young Global Leaders, Global Shapers and Young Scientists.

Professor Subramanian was nominated to speak at the meeting by the European Research Council (ERC) as one of 30 exceptional scientists under the age of 40.

Professor Subramanian’s talk entitled Tomorrow’s consumer tech: will the future of computing be touch or touchless?, will take place on Wednesday 10 September at 10.30 am.

Further information

About the Annual Meeting of the New Champions

The Annual Meeting of the New Champions is the foremost global business gathering in Asia. Also known as the “Summer Davos”, the Meeting creates a unique opportunity for exchange between leaders from top-ranked multinationals and chief executive officers of dynamic and fast-growing companies, including key decision-makers from government, media, academia and civil society.

It will bring together more than 1,500 participants from 90 countries to share strategies and solutions and discuss global issues and risks. The New Champion communities – including Global Growth Companies, Young Global Leaders, Young Scientists, Technology Pioneers, Social Entrepreneurs and the World Economic Forum’s youngest community, the Global Shapers – will once again engage with Forum Members and Partners during the seventh Annual Meeting of the New Champions, to be held from 10-12 September in Tianjin, China. This year’s theme is “Creating Value through Innovation”.

The World Economic Forum is an independent international organisation committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.


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