This Microsoft sensor could make touching your phone screen a thing of the past

Microsoft Research has announced that it is currently working on a new transparent electric field sensor that may allow users to execute commands on a smartphone without even touching it. The still-unnamed technology (for now we can call it “A Low-Cost Transparent Electric Field Sensor for 3D Interaction on Mobile Devices“) can detect a person’s hand when it floats above a phone screen.

“Our approach requires no direct instrumentation of the hand or body, and is non-optical, allowing for a compact form-factor that is resilient to ambient illumination,” the research team said on the Microsoft website. The company seems to be going all in on gesture recognition. At the Computer Human Interaction conference this week, it also revealed a keyboard with the capability.

The technology is based on an off-the-shelf processor and a custom array that is made up of one transmit electrode and five receiver electrodes. The transmit electrode generates an electric field that is sensed by the five receiver electrodes. When a hand comes near the sensor, the electric field is coupled with the user, which then changes the signal. The technology then employs a machine learning algorithm to map the raw signal at each electrode to a 3D position. It’s all pretty geeky, but it means you don’t have to touch your phone at all to use it.

 If you want to see the new project in action, you can watch the video walkthrough below.

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