Microsoft SideSight Thinks Touchscreens Have It Wrong

Many of us are pretty happy with touchscreen implementation in products like the iPhone or HTC Touch. But Microsoft (teaming with HTC hardware, at least in this photograph) has developed a new sort of touchscreen that doesn't involve touching the screen at all. Instead, IR beams shoot out from the sides of the phone and track your gestures on any surface.

The beams are arranged in two rows and spaced 10 millimetres apart, aimed horizontally preventing overhead light sources from interfering. Users can then operate the device using both hands without even touching the phone, scrolling with vertical or horizontal movements, rotating an object on the screen by twisting or even scrolling on one side wile writing with a stylus on the other.

The catch seems to be that the system prefers single finger input, and we're not exactly sure how such a limitation reconciles with all the maneuvers described above.

In the photo you see here, the sensors weren't actually integrated into the phone but controlled by an external PC and beamed via Bluetooth. Supposedly there are no real technical limitations to putting IR sensors in all 360 degrees around the phone while remaining more energy efficient than your standard touchscreen.

The technology will be presented in a paper this week at the User Interface Software and Technology conference. Hopefully we'll see some real product manifestations not too long after. [Gearlog and CNET Photo]

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