Apple could learn a thing or two from this very cool Microsoft Research project, showing a design for “precognitive touch screens.”
Basically, Microsoft built a “self-capacitive touch screen,” which is fancy-pants science talk for a phone that can sense when your fingers are nearby and display the controls you need, right when you need them.
The video, posted in late April 2016, explains it best:
It’s a pretty jaw-dropping concept (and similar to Project Soli technology that Google is developing). Microsoft calls it “pre-touch.”
Move your finger close to the screen, controls appear. Move it away, they vanish. If you’re using it one-handed, only the most common controls show up, right beneath your fingers. It also means waving a few fingers over the screen for highlighting content. If your fingers are moving fast, it might know to disregard a wild touch of the screen, but that a slow touch was meant to hit a small icon on the screen.
Beyond even those examples, the video shows all kinds of other potential here.
- YouTube/BI Screenshot
“I think it has huge potential for the future of mobile interaction,” says Microsoft principal researcher Ken Hinckley, who developed this project, in a blog entry. “And I say this as one of the very first people to explore the possibilities of sensors on mobile phones, including the now ubiquitous capability to sense and auto-rotate the screen orientation.”
Like many projects out of the Microsoft Research labs, “pre-touch” screens may never see the light of day – though CEO Satya Nadella has made a point of fast-tracking certain sci-fi technologies into real commercial products.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s phone business is struggling, so we may never see it in a Windows 10 Mobile device. But if Apple is paying attention this could be an amazing addition to the iPhone, even if we might have to wait for the iPhone 8 or 9.