MS PocketTouch – Sensor for Through-Fabric Touch Input

Posted by at 8:56 am on October 18, 2011

Researchers at Microsoft have come up with a prototype sensor that can be attached to the back of a smartphone and can detect touch — even multi-touch gestures — through fabrics, even heavy fabrics like fleece. The invention, once refined, could allow users to dismiss calls without removing a device from their pocket, and could even be trained to perform simple actions or reply to texts without looking at the device, reports GeekWire.

The company will present the project this week at a Association for Computing Machinery symposium in California. It has also posted a video (watch below) on YouTube that demonstrates the technology in a raw, prototype state, but which clearly shows a user able to control and even send text messages on a smartphone through various kinds of fabrics. Researchers say the invention could also be adapted to use the capacitive touchscreen already built into smartphones with a modification of the touchscreen’s firmware.

The sensor and software combination could be trained to recognize a variety of gestures for different commands, including an “orientation” gesture that would tell the device how to interpret further gestures regardless of which position the smartphone was actually in. Currently called PocketTouch, the technology could also have practical applications for visually-impaired users, or those who need to use their device in very cold climates where gloves are a necessity. Windows Phone​, like Android, have fallen behind iOS in terms of functionality for visually-impaired users.

Microsoft will also be demonstrating another invention called OmniTouch that combines a pico projector with a depth-perceiving camera to allow users to interact with images projected onto surfaces, even non-flat ones

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