New ForcePhone technology to let you control smartphones with a squeeze

Imagine if you could control your smartphone with a simple squeeze. This is what the engineers from University of Michigan making a reality. The team is developing a Batsman-inspired software that can allow the users to command the smartphones using a sense of force/pressure on its body/display.

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This ‘ForcePhone’ is a pressure-sensitive technology, similar to the 3D touch functionality that debuted on iPhone 6S. The researchers used ultrasonic waves to replicate the effects of 3D touch without the need for a special screen technology.

“We have augmented the user interface without requiring any special built-in sensors. ForcePhone increases the vocabulary between the phone and the user. You do not need a special screen or built-in sensors to do this. Now this functionality can be realised on any phone,” said Kang Shin, professor of computer science in electrical engineering.

A harder push on a screen button can unlock the menu of additional options, similar to right-clicking with a mouse. “I think we are offering a natural interface, like how you turn a knob. It is the next step forward from a basic touch interface, and it can complement other gestured communication channels and voice,” added Yu-Chih Tung, another creator of ForcePhone.

“Having expensive and bulky sensors installed in smartphones can solve every problem we have solved, but the added cost and laborious installation prevent phone manufacturers doing it,” Tung added.

The researchers got inspired from the 2008 movie “The Dark Knight” to create ForcePhone, in which the caped crusader turns all the smartphones in Gotham City into a sonar system as high-frequency audio signals bounce off the city’s infrastructure.

A demo of ForcePhone can be expected at MobiSys 2016 in Singapore on June 27-29. It’ll take longer time for a commercial launch, said its creators.

 Image Source: University of Michigan

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