Microsoft Research has developed a new capacitive touch technology called PocketTouch that works even when you place a piece of fabric between your finger and the touchscreen. This could let you control music playback or even send text messages on a phone without removing it from your pocket — or even sticking your hand in your pocket.

Since you can’t actually see your screen you won’t be able to interact with icons — but Microsoft developed a gesture-based input system. This lets you unlock the device by performing a gesture, and that lets your phone or tablet know which way is “up” thanks to some gesture-based orientation defining technology.

Microsoft has tested the system with heavy fabric including jacket pockets, and it turns out the PocketTouch system works.

At first blush, PocketTouch seems rather odd: Why would you want to use a mobile, touchscreen device without removing it from your pocket. But I can imagine a few situations where this would be useful:

  • One thing I miss about old-fashioned media players is that you can place your hand in your pocket to pause or skip a song without looking at the device. This gesture-based system would also let you control media playback without looking at your device.
  • You can silence your phone much more quickly when the ringer goes off at a meeting if you don’t have to remove it from your pocket first.
  • When your device is tucked away in a jacket pocket and you’re buttoned up to resist the cold, PocketTouch could let you interact with it without opening up your jacket first — provided your coat isn’t too thick.

Right now PocketTouch is just a research project in the prototype stages. Maybe one day we’ll see the technology in real products. There’s no word on when Microsoft will develop technology that lets you stroke your pocket without looking ridiculous.

via Geek Wire

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