Disney Research’s ‘Feeling Fireworks’ Translate Pyrotechnics for the Visually Impaired


It is probably not an overstatement to say that most people take sight for granted, but as Disney fans we are especially accustomed to having our eyes constantly catered to. While basking in the visual stimulation that comes from a nighttime fireworks spectacular, we don’t often stop to think about those that lack the ability to enjoy it the way we do.

Thanks to a new project from Disney Research, our visually impaired friends and loved ones may have the ability to perceive a pyrotechnic display in a brand new way. “Feeling Fireworks” uses haptic feedback to translate the experience into a tactile sensation. As Disney Research describes it,

“Tactile effects are created using directable water jets that spray onto the rear of a flexible screen, with different nozzles for different firework effects. Our approach is low-cost and scales well, and allows for dynamic tactile effects to be rendered with high spatial resolution.”

The device utilizes different water jets aimed at a latex screen to mimic fireworks effects, with different nozzles for explosions, crackle effects, and a “blooming flower” effect. The reverse side of the screen, where the experience is meant to be felt, also displays visual projections of the fireworks to match the haptic feedback.

Disney Research included a focus group and user study in their publication. 18 sighted participants could properly identify the tactile feedback to the correct corresponding visual display at a 66% success rate. Disney Research intends to use this information to help design unambiguous fireworks shows.

Not only can the technology be used for the fireworks function, but it could conceivably be applied to other large format tactile displays as well.

Below is their video, which is subtitled and sadly does not cater to the visually impaired, but is definitely worth a watch.

Sources: Disney Research, Popular Science

Image/Video: Disney research


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