The way we interact with our mobile devices has been changed by capacitive touchscreens, but they have not really changed much since they were first introduced, and not until recently was there any indication that they would change soon.
Apple is attempting to expand on touchscreens, however, Microsoft Research is looking to create 3D touch is trying to create a touchscreen you will not even have to touch. The pre-touch sensing prototype smartphone will activate diverse types of interactions that is based on how you hold the phone and where your fingers without you touching the glass.
Microsoft isn’t the first to try this
Microsoft is not the first company that has decided it wanted to design a screen that did not require actual touch, that can be used without having the screen touched. Samsung did something comparable with inductive technology that’s used in its Note styluses. For a short time in 2012, Sony had a similar system. Sony’s Floating Touch platform was used only on a single phone, and there was limited software support.
Android did not have widespread support for their hover actions because it is not actually a mouse-based OS. Microsoft is using technology that is similar and letting their imagination detail what a platform might look like if the design keeping pre touch sensing in mind.
How it works
There are two fundamental kinds of capacitive sensors used in touchscreens. There are typical mutual capacitance sensors that you can also find in other screens, and then there are self-capacitance sensors. The prototype Microsoft screen has self-capacitance sensors, because they have enormously high sensitivity able to sense hovering fingers that are one or two inches away. Previously, these only had the ability to sense a single input, but it would seem that Microsoft has been able to address this.
The demo video shows some of the appealing interactions that are probable with the test drive of the Microsoft device. It is able to do the basics such as pulling up video controls or revealing hyperlinks on a web page as you hover. The grip sensing is when things start to get interesting, because the self-capacitance sensors in this display can map numerous inputs.
This means the phone can bring up different controls. It senses a hover event based on how you are holding it. The standard video controls can substitute for a subset of controls available on one side or the other. The interaction with those controls is best suited for one hand use. This system can combine touch and hover detection to pull up menus comfortably rather than needing numerous actions.
Pre-touch sensing as demonstrated by Microsoft can do subtle things also. By distinguishing between rapid and precise motion before the tap, the phone can determine what you planned to do with that tap. For example, a specific tap that occurs to land on just next to a small button could then be mapped to that button because it’s possible that’s what you were after to begin with.