Screenshot: Sensor identifies the type of touch input. (via Qeexo)
In an industry dominated by electrically capacitive interfaces, the Carnegie Mellon spin off company Qeexo, has developed a new touch interface that adds many other dimensions of use to touchscreen phones.
Most common interfaces consist of capacitance touch screens that are activated by the electric properties of fingers. But, in a paper released in 2011, Carnegie Mellon researchers explained that “humans use different parts of their fingers in different ways—to scratch an itch, type on a keyboard, tap a co-worker on the shoulder or knock on a door,” so researchers from the Qeexo Pittsburgh team sought to exploit the wide versatility of the human hand. They figured out a way to make touch screens recognize scratching, knocking as well as tapping or poking with different materials, by equipping the screen with an acoustic sensor.
Rubbing fingernails, knuckles, fingers or any other object against a touch screen creates vibrations that are specific to the object being used. This input is recognized by the tiny acoustic sensor inside the phone. The goal is to set sounds to a specific function.
For example, an on acoustic touch screen, the finger pad can be used for scrolling, fingernail for selecting as in a left-click and knuckle could open a side menu like a right-click. Drawing programs could recognize the type of tool like a thin pencil or thick stylus and draw accordingly while using the fingers to smudge and a rubber eraser to erase; all customizable or programmable possibilities. Qeexo developed a game where player must use different parts of their hand to play. The interface can also detect two simultaneous inputs and these can be programmed to launch applications etc.
So far, the company has developed an Android SDK, but an iOS version will be released soon. Qeexo demonstrated their interface on a Samsun Galaxy S III, but the company is still shopping the idea around so they have not released much info on how it functions. Qeexo did say that the interface works in real-time, has low-latency, is power efficient and reports say it is extremely sensitive to even the slightest touch. Qeexo did reveal that the acoustic touch screen uses a tiny, off-the-shelf acoustic sensor.