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18 May 20164 Comments by Jon M

Microsoft proposes a Phone which could predict touch


Touch screens have been around for a long time. Initial examples were not very sophisticated and expensive to manufacture. Elographics built the first touch screen with a translucent surface in 1974. The first computer with touch screen elements was the HP-150 in 1983, but it was not a success. In 1993, Apple released the Newton PDA and IBM the smartphone called Simon with limited touchscreen features.

The major breakthrough came from Apple when they released their new touch screen smartphone called the iPhone on June 29, 2007. Today pretty much every phone manufacturer delivers a touch screen phone and the next development in touchscreen technology seemed to be Apple with its ForceTouch which measures the pressure applied on the screen.

Microsoft has stirred the market with a research project announced in April called Pre-Touch Sensing for Mobile Interaction. Ken Hinckley, a principal researcher at Microsoft who led the project, said the research is based on a whole different philosophy of interaction design. The research uses the phone’s ability to sense how you are gripping the device as well as when and where the fingers are approaching it.

Pre-touch sensing effectively allows the smartphone interface to be turned off until it detects a finger approaching the screen. The term used for this action is called a “nick of time” user interface which could, for example, hide the player controls on a video until they are needed. The technology starts approaching artificial intelligence when you realise that because the smartphone can detect how it is being held, it could also determine which hand a particular finger belongs to. So, if you were using the phone one-handed, pre-touch sensing could deliver a different interface than if you were holding it with two hands—allowing you to easily scrub through a video with just your thumb, or offering a different keyboard depending on what fingers you have available.


The technology offers many possible improvements to the way we use our mobile devices. It should be possible to have much better precision when tapping small on-screen elements. For example, if you’re reading a webpage in your mobile browser, the UI could highlight the link you’re trying to tap before you even tap it. It would also give mobile users the equivalent of a right-click. You could tap a file or icon with one finger, then hover your thumb over the screen to select between options in a contextual menu.

Although this development is still at the research stage, it offers very exciting possibilities for innovative development if existing technologies. But like all of Microsoft Research’s projects, there’s no telling whether or not a smartphone with pre-touch sensing will ever come out of the prototype phase—especially as Microsoft winds down its Nokia smartphone business.

How innovative do you think this technology is? And will it change the way we interact with our phones forever?

4 Responses to “Microsoft proposes a Phone which could predict touch”

  1. Ronnie 1 June 2016 at 21:38 Permalink

    Hey guys,I will ask again.
    And it takes me to do it through a thread.
    How do you get rid of the stupid social media squares on the left hand side of the screen?
    They are bloody annoying 😕

  2. Ronnie 21 May 2016 at 21:33 Permalink

    Hmm,I like it when companies come up with something quirky.
    But,it’s not something I can get excited about.
    I’m pretty sure my old Amazon Fire had something not dissimilar to it.

    • Mobile Network Comparison 22 May 2016 at 16:31 Permalink

      Really? How did the Fire UI work?

      • Ronnie 22 May 2016 at 22:38 Permalink

        I’m talking more in the “gimmicky” side of things,with their Dymanic Perspective idea.There were 4 cameras on each edge which apparently “sensed” how you held the phone.But its purpose of 3D effect was good the first time,but a bit “meh” every other time.
        You could tilt the phone on maps and it would give you info on places you were looking at .Or if you were browsing on Amazon (go figure),you could tilt it to see a bigger picture of what you are looking at.
        I know,not really the same as Microsoft’s idea,but Microsofts idea just reminds me of the unuseful gimmicks we don’t really need.
        Don’t get me wrong,I liked the Fire very much.Their Silk OS was a lot better than standard Android.
        But Firefly and Dynamic Perspective were not really needed things

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