Sometimes it’s easy to forget how many different teams Microsoft Research has on hand to pursue new, and sometimes even useful, technology. Today’s installment of ‘fresh, and probably impractical’ is this: A new type of touch sensor, built for the back of smartphones, that allows a user to interact with their handset while it is in their pocket.
You can suppose that this is designed to allow people to say no to phone calls, and even respond to text messages, without the need to remove their phones from their pockets, and thus commit a social faux pas in a location where phones are frowned on (meetings, etc). I would argue, however, that in nearly every social setting, phones are now legal according to our social mores. That or my friends and I are complete boors.
Whatever, the case, say hello to PocketTouch. Microsoft is set to show off the technology and present a paper on it at the Association for Computing Machinery Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in California later this week. Microsoft is obviously a bit tittled over the new capability as it could represent something that might give the hardware that runs Windows Phone 7 an edge over competing platforms.
Perhaps audaciously, typing is supported. By that we mean that a user with a PocketTouch enabled phone can ‘type’ through their pants and respond to a message. Of course, this is a technical challenge, as the orientation of the phone will always be different in each pocket, and typing is hard with one finger on a device that you can’t see, while you are chatting verbally above the table. Then again, if it works, neat. I still don’t see a huge need for it, but given how attached people are to their phones, and SMS in general, perhaps Microsoft is on to something.