Pre-Touch Sensing for Mobile Interaction
Touchscreens continue to advance—including progress towards sensing fingers proximal to the display. We explore this emerging pre-touch modality via a self-capacitance touchscreen that can sense multiple fingers above a mobile device, as well as grip around the screen’s edges. This capability opens up many possibilities for mobile interaction. For example, using pre-touch in an anticipatory role affords an “ad-lib interface” that fades in a different UI—appropriate to the context—as the user approaches one-handed with a thumb, two-handed with an index finger, or even with a pinch or two thumbs. Or we can interpret pre-touch in a retroactive manner that leverages the approach trajectory to discern whether the user made contact with a ballistic vs. a finely-targeted motion. Pre-touch also enables hybrid touch + hover gestures, such as selecting an icon with the thumb while bringing a second finger into range to invoke a context menu at a convenient location. Collectively these techniques illustrate how pre-touch sensing offers an intriguing new back-channel for mobile interaction.