Microsoft’s ‘pre-touch sensing’ research may change how we use our phones


The touchscreens on our smartphones have improved dramatically since the introduction of the T-Mobile G1. Touch detection is faster and more accurate than ever, but Microsoft’s research labs is working on “pre-touch sensing” which has the potential to change the way we interact with touchscreen devices. Microsoft’s research focuses on above-screen and grip detection to provide contextual interface interaction.

An example use case is a video player which displays on-screen controls as your finger approaches the display. If the device detects that it’s being held with one hand, modified controls appear on the side of the display that’s being held when a user’s thumb approaches the display. When a second hand is detected on the other side of the phone, distinct controls are shown if the users other thumb approaches the display at the same time. The technology can also be used in a web browser to highlight links as a single finger hovers over the display or swipe between browser tabs with a two-finger gesture.

Samsung has already implemented similar functionality with Air Command on its Note devices, but the technology relies on the S Pen rather than finger detection. We don’t see Google rolling out pre-touch sensing into Android any time soon, but we wouldn’t be surprised if a limited version of the technology is implemented by an Android manufacturer within the next 12 months.

Who do you think will be the first to roll out pre-touch sensing in an Android smartphone?

Nick Gray
I'm a life-long tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC. After writing about tech for more than a decade, I jumped at the opportunity to take on the role of Editor in Chief at Phandroid. Please contact me at [email protected].

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