Over the past few months, Apple, Huawei, ZTE, and others have created attention in the smartphone world with tech so precise in measuring the amount of downward force on a screen.
Its only on some exclusive phones — Older handsets can’t be retrofitted with the means to create this on their hardware. Yet, researchers at the University of Michigan may have discovered a low-cost, easy solution: a 3D Touch-like system of feedback that’s adaptable to practically any smartphone, recognizes when weight’s being applied to the touchscreen, and that can even tell when the phone’s being squeezed.
At first you may think how can that be?, But the engineers’ software prototype, ForcePhone, is grounded in clever audiology. As soon as it is online, the app generates a constant, 18 kHz tone inaudible to human ears that the phone emits through its speakers. When force is applied to the phone’s touchscreen with a finger or object, the resulting acoustic shift. The phone’s microphone picks up those changes, and ForcePhone translates them into commands that apps and games can interpret. It’s essentially sonar.
The squeeze of a hand could flip an eBook’s pages, for example, or pop open a previously hidden menu of options. And sequential squeezes could trigger pre-programmed applications, alarms, and other routines.
“There will not be a need for a special screen or built-in sensors to do this. Now, this functionality can be realized on any phone” as commented by a professor at the University of Michigan’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and project lead on ForcePhone. “We’ve augmented the user interface without requiring any special built-in sensors.” “As well as it’s the next step forward from a basic touch interface, and it can complement other gestured communication channels and voice."
ForcePhone’s still in the experimental stages, but there is plans to present an update at a conference in Singapore in late June. There's always hope that phone manufacturers take notice.