Microsoft researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a completely new way to interact with your smartphone called “PocketTouch“. The name is incredibly apt since it describes a system that allows you to control a device while it’s still in your pocket. Using a capacitive element that’s placed on the back of your smartphone, you can simply draw out letters or use gestures to do things such as change a music track, dismiss an incoming call, or even compose a simple text message. The capacitive touch screen that almost all smartphones have today can also be used, but the firmware controlling said screen needs to be modified. No word as to when we’ll see this technology come to market, but it does pose some interesting questions.
Here’s a few that immediately come to mind: Why would you want to interact with your smartphone while it’s still in your pocket? Wouldn’t it be easier to just take it out, do what you have to do, and then shove it back into your pocket? What’s the learning curve for these new gestures? What about people who keep their device in a case or even a bag? Is Microsoft implying that it’s better for us to keep our devices out of sight, purposefully making them less tempting to reach for, thereby forcing us to interact with the people in our immediate vicinity? How will battery life be impacted by an always on capacitive sensor?
It’s not that we don’t like seeing Microsoft pushing the envelope and exploring new fields, we think this type of research is crucial to moving the entire industry forward, but we can’t help but be confused as to how exactly this will prove itself useful. We’d much rather see wrist watches make a resurgence, not your father’s kind, but instead a new generation that can interact with our devices over standards such as Bluetooth.