Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Future touch screens might work through fabric

How many times have you been in a situation where you're running late and want to alert someone, but social etiquette makes it just plain rude to look down at your phone and send a text message?

If that sounds like you I'm describing, you might want to read this New York Times story about PocketTouch, a new prototype technology being worked on by a couple of Microsoft researchers and a Carnegie Mellon University student that (in theory) will let you text someone without looking at the screen.

The technology borrows from the principles of shorthand, in that it would use sensors to interpret your gestures and translate them into messages. (If you think autocorrect is bad now, just imagine, but I digress.)

This new approach to touch in itself is pretty cool, but what is even cooler in my opinion is that the screen being tested can be touched through fabric. So you could discretely reach into your coat and do this without even taking your device out of your pocket. Of course, most women I know don't exactly keep their mobile phones in their breast pockets, so the researchers might want to do a little bit more demographic homework. Still, the idea that future smartphone screens might not require me to take my gloves off in the winter is definitely very, very appealing.

PocketTouch is just a prototype right now, so don't get too excited, but this is another example of the evolution that smartphones will continue to undergo as humans continue to become ever more mobile and we seek ever more intuitive and simple ways to interact with these devices other than our much-overused thumbs.