Mar 14 AT 5:23 PM Edgar Cervantes 24 Comments

Sony details Floating Touch technology in new video


Sony’s big announcement this week revolved around the Xperia Sola (previously known as “Pepper“). The device failed to impress us all that much, but Sony had a couple more tricks up its sleeve including SmartTags and a new technology they are calling Floating Touch. The latter raised some questions, which the Japanese manufacturer tries to explain in a recent blog post.

In a nutshell, Floating Touch allows users to control their device by hovering their finger over it. It is similar to how your cursor works on your desktop. When you hover over content it is highlighted, then you can make a selection by tapping. This will give users finer control and reduce the incidence of tapping on wrong buttons or links when using a supported app.

But how exactly are they able to accomplish this? The explanation may be a bit confusing, but let’s give it a try. Current smartphones use capacitive touchscreens. Manufacturers can use two types of sensors for such – mutual and self capacitance. The former allows multi-touch, while self capacitance sensors do not.

Sony uses both sensors simultaneously to create this hovering effect. Mutual capacitance is used for regular touch actions, and self capacitive sensors are activated when the Floating Touch feature is in use. This is what creates the “shadowing” effect (or highlighting).

The self capacitive sensors are set up to be extra sensitive, being able to detect a user’s finger up to 20 mm above the screen. When hovering one’s finger, the screen is not able to detect multiple fingers. This is not necessarily bad, as seeing multiple hover points on your screen would likely just be confusing.

As expected, this feature is not available for all applications. Developers will have to implement it in order for the customer to make use of it. But for now, you can use the Xperia Sola’s browser with Floating Touch capabilities.

I really want to get excited over this feature, but can’t help feeling like it is just a gimmick. But it seems fun, and it would help in some scenarios – especially for small devices, such as the 3.7-inch Xperia Sola. When using smaller smartphones, one tends to tap on the wrong links more often, due to the lack of screen real estate.

Personally, I am still more excited about SmartTags. Check out the video and source link for more details then let us know what you think of this technology. Do you think you could take advantage of Sony’s Floating Touch features?

Via: The Verge

Source: Sony

Hello, I am Edgar Cervantes. I am an avid Android fan, and keeping myself updated on the topic is part of my daily life. I will always work hard to give the best of me to our community of Android enthusiasts, and I am very honored to be part of this ship. Hopefully we can all enjoy sharing our knowledge and opinions!

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  • boro09

    So COOL!

  • MJM128

    That’s pretty cool, but sony hasn’t really wow’ed me with their devices or software update history enough to warrant me considering a purchase from them. I really want to give Sony a chance… (love their TVs).

  •!/profile.php?id=583695634&ref=profile Rahul Singh

    Seems like a good concept.

  • PacoBell

    I know one possibly enabling use of this technology would be to finally allow the user to interact with online flash apps that aren’t optimized for mobile experiences. Hovering was pretty much the missing link and this tech has solved that shortcoming. Looks like mobile Flash just got a new (albeit temporary) lease on life.

    • Chris

      This would require that Adobe implemented the brand new Hover input functionality (introduced in 4.0), which I kind of doubt since they’re dropping support from here out. My guess is it isn’t supported, so if this is a major point for you I’d verify it works before running out and buying the device.

  • TruFactz

    Very good concept. especially for people who use my devices and create what i call “Magical Accidents”

  • Dan13

    I think Sony has created something new and fantastic. But, I doubt this will take off any time soon. I have moments of indecisiveness where I hover my finger over the screen, and I’m sure others do too. With this technology, it would be too easy to push the wrong thing. Other than that, it’s a great step towards a smudge-free screen future!

    • F4

      I think the point of it is so you don’t press the wrong button the screen.

  • spazby

    looks cool but not sure market is ready for it… i don’t think this would make me go – wow, i want this phone just because of this

  • Hall Lo

    This is a great addition actually, esp using it with the browser. :)

  • Chris

    There’s actually a big problem with this that I don’t think anyone has touched on yet. The hover functionality probably uses the “focused” state for items. This should work fine for apps which use the native UI, but speaking from experience, this is a low priority (if considered at all) when implementing a custom UI, at least as far as app designers/management is often concerned. This is partially because many phones now have no direction pad (and when they do users often ignore it) so focused states may be inaccessible to many users, and partially because iOS has no focused state so apps designed with iOS in mind often ignore this. I have a feeling that probably the majority of apps available to not support focused states, especially games, which have completely custom UIs and may not even implement standard UI controls as the bases for their controls. It’s nice in theory, but it’ll be like the Xperia Play controls or 3D phones, where it’ll only work well with the pre-installed apps and a hand full of the apps from the market. The up side to this is that it shouldn’t be too difficult for good developers to implement, and with a bit of pressure from users it should move up on the long list of tasks most Android developers need to choose from.

  • jak2rocks

    Seems pretty interesting, but I can’t really give an opinion until I use it myself. Wonder how long it’ll be before I get to…

  • Geah

    This is a retarded “feature”. My stupid EVO 3D does this and it pisses me off cause I’m just hovering my finger over the screen and it will select something I didn’t even intend to touch directly. I was just thinking about what I wanted to do and get close enough to activate the incredibly sensitive touch feature.

    It’s most painful with the capacitive keys, those are incredibly sensitive. Anyone that has dealt with this will not think it’s “cool”, it’s just frustrating and a failure in design.

    • LittleDebbie11

      Holy cow your Evo 3D does that? Uhh… is that normal? Cause I had an Evo 3D & I definitely had to touch the screen for any response.

      • Geah

        Definitely not normal, I have dead pixels and my camera takes overly green pictures too, but this is my 3rd EVO so I’m done exchanging. First was a mix up with serial numbers and 2nd had dust under the glass.

  • jeff

    Why didn’t they say iPhone when referring to a phone with a stupidly small screen?

  • Bryan Stoner

    ShiT!! SO COOL!! I’m glad to see the added an extra level of functionality. I always had trouble with things like browser selection and site menu navigation.

  • Mike

    I’m trying to understand the point of this. From a usability POV, it’s pretty bad. Do exactly what you can already do with a smartphone, but without any physical feedback.

    Unless I’m missing something that isn’t obvious, what advantage does this have over physically touching the screen?

    The demonstrator in the video clearly didn’t show much confidence using it too. From where I sit, this looks like nothing more than an unusable gimmick.

    • PacoBell

      Really? You’ve NEVER visited a website that utilized hover menus? You’re either really naive or being disingenuous.

  • Luly

    Pretty cool. And I love the design of the phone. It’s very clean and chic

    Sony is having a good start in the Android world.

  • moke

    not even going to go into how stupid this its cool but imagine all the headaches…especially trying t type. Its a gimmick most will just continue to use screen

    • PacoBell

      You really don’t get it. You still use the screen. This just adds extra functionality to the input. Now you can hover select before you click. Honestly, I don’t understand how so many commenters here don’t get that simple concept. It’s basically mouse emulation, but with the advantage of direct interaction of a touchscreen, the best of both worlds.

  • cheap Monster Beats Tour Earphones

    This is a retarded “feature”. My stupid EVO 3D does this and it pisses me off cause I’m just hovering my finger over the screen and it will select something I didn’t even intend to touch directly.Blue White Monster Pro Diamond Headphones

  • tech_ guy

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