Video: Hands-On with Synaptics Fuse

Back in December, touch technology manufacturer and licensor, Synaptics, announced that they had teamed up with a bunch of industry partners to create a concept phone called Fuse that was jam-packed with every kind of sensor imaginable to illustrate to proper handset manufacturers what was possible. At CES, they were showing a little bit of working software, but here at Mobile World Congress, we got to see a fully functional user interface.

As you can see, the Fuse’s most characteristic feature are pressure sensors on either side, which can pick up a full, subtle range of force for tasks like muting incoming phone calls. Of course, there’s also an accelerometer in there, which enables scrolling via tilt. A full touchscreen covers the rear of the device, which allows interaction without obscuring view (which is something we’ve already seen implemented in the Motorola Backflip), and the additional touch sensors on the side felt like a throwback to the old BlackBerry trackwheels.

The user interface, cooked up by TheAlloy, makes great use of 3D rendering – not just the useless spinning cube crap you’d see on LG’s S-Class UI. You get a fisheye bubble over the application icon grid when using the rearside touch display, giving you the sensation of actually pushing through the device. The home screen widgets are also 3D, which tilt with accelerometer, and even flip around fully to reveal a second side. This is great, since it effectively doubles the information and functions that the widget would normally provide.

Despite the overall instability that you would expect from a phone that wasn’t intended to reach the mass market and was made by folks who aren’t usually in the business of making their own hardware, I found the idea and execution wholly exciting. While it’s most likely that proper handset producers will at best take parts of the Fuse’s technology piecemeal for use in other phones, I not-so-secretly want Synaptics and their buddies to go it alone and make the Fuse happen for real. Sure, the idea is a bit out there, but I think everyone’s interested in interacting with their technology in new ways, especially in an industry where so many products are roughly interchangeable. What do you guys think? Would it be possible to get used to navigating menus in the way that Fuse proposes?

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