Fogale Nanotech's Sensation technology could revolutionize the way consumers interact with mobile devices in the same way that the Kinect has changed video games.
Sensation can recognize and respond to finger or hand movements up to 10cm above the screen of a smartphone or other mobile device. Photo: AFP/PKruger
The new technology, which the company is calling ‘Sensation' and which was demonstrated for the first time Monday at the
Mobile World Congress, is a new interface that can register movements and gestures as far as 10 centimeters away from the screen. It allows users to operate a mobile device via finger and hand movements as well as via touch input.
As well as bringing a new dimension to games, this ability to identify finger movements before they touch the screen could radically simplify functions such as on-screen typing. The letter keys can expand and rise to meet the finger, eliminating typographical errors and allowing for more detailed keyboards. One of the things many users find frustrating about the iPhone, for example, is that the number keys and punctuation marks are on a separate keyboard from the letters.
Other commands, such as skipping tracks while listening to music, can be completed with a wave of the hand rather than by having to access a device's lock screen.
Handset makers have already experimented with similar yet more limited gesture technologies. The Sony Xperia Sola smartphone, released last year, featured ‘hover' technology in the form of something called maXTouch S that could respond to gestures directly above the screen and the new Samsung Galaxy SIV is widely tipped to feature the same technology when it is officially unveiled in March.
Likewise, tech start-up Leap Motion's Leap Motion Controller can plug into the USB port of a Windows or Mac desktop or notebook PC to add three-dimensional gesture-based inputs to computing. Such has been its impact that Asus is already bundling the controller with its top-of-the-range computers this year.
PrimeSense, the company behind Microsoft's Kinect controller for the Xbox, also recently announced that it has developed a miniaturized version of the technology that it hopes device makers will start building into the next generation of smartphones and tablets. As the company explains on its blog: "We see that 3D sensing can add functionality and an improved user experience to almost all of today's devices, and we want to make the system capable of that."