When Apple unveiled its 3D Touch technology for the iPhone 6s series, there were mixed reviews about whether it was going to be a game-changing innovation or just a gimmick. Today, nearly nine months after the phone hit shelves, it seems most owners have finally gotten good at not accidentally triggering the feature, but that’s where the positives end for it.
This is why the new touch technology just unveiled by Microsoft Research is so attractive: it’s what 3D Touch iPhone people wish they had. Microsoft is calling the technology “pre-touch,” and it’s almost a reverse 3D Touch, sensing the user’s fingers as they approach the screen and while they grip around the outer edges of the device.
You can think of it as a mouse hover on a computer, and that’s an idea that’s more baked-in and natural than Apple’s 3D Touch or Force Touch. Pre-touch allows for some pretty nifty features that weren’t possible on previous touch screens and more importantly allows the phone to better understand what a user’s intended action is.
For example: Every twitterer out there has accidentally reached to hit a link or expand a tweet and wound up missing and hitting the like or retweet button. Well, this gesture sensor can embolden or highlight an icon your finger is hovering above to help avoid mistake taps.
The tech can also improve scrolling. Come in fast with the finger for a broad swipe motion and the phone knows you’re trying to scroll down the page. Approach the text lightly and the phone knows you’re trying to copy and paste.
The side grip sensors can also tell if users are holding the device in one hand or using two, and serves up one-handed controls for things like video playback based on how the phone is being held.
Microsoft’s video also shows off a range of pre-touch options for consuming media. The company’s prototype video player makes it so that a finger hovered over the screen will display the necessary playback information users are used to seeing after a single touch. The video also displays someone hovering their finger over a digital newspaper layout, which exposes various other links without having to tap into it.
Unlike 3D Touch, these features seem like they’d be relatively helpful to consumers beyond a simple gimmick and could even add new layers to gaming. Of course, all that goes out the window if this technology is only available on Microsoft phones. Because who has one of those?