Universal 3D Touch: ForcePhone Allows Any Smartphone To Get 3D Touch Capabilities [VIDEO]
With a frame practically identical with its predecessor, Apple's current flagship, the iPhone 6S and 6S plus, was arguably not as successful as the tech giant might have hoped. Despite this, however, critics and users alike were unanimous in the notion that Apple's 3D Touch technology, the one feature that is truly unique to the device, was a very innovative feature.
Using a special layer placed on top of the device's display, 3D Touch allowed users to access additional menus and shortcuts when different amounts of pressure are applied to the phone's screen. As great as the feature is, however, it has so far been exclusive only to Apple's premium devices.
That is, of course, until now. Thanks to efforts of engineers from the University of Michigan, it is now possible to give any smartphone, regardless of brand and specs, 3D Touch features. The engineers even gave the technology a name, ForcePhone.
Unlike 3D Touch, however, ForcePhone uses ultrasound technology to determine the amount of pressure a user is putting on certain parts of the screen. ForcePhone's approach is actually quite simple. The smartphone's speaker is programmed to emit sounds covering the 18 to 24 kHz range (no need to worry, though, since this frequency is far beyond what humans of even dogs can hear). Once an area of the screen is pressed, the program detects the changes in the sound.
Different types of pressure on the screen would translate to different changes in the ultrasonic sound being emitted by the speaker. The ForcePhone software then translates the changes in sound to input.
In a press release, Kang Shin, Professor of Computer Science in the University's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, stated that ForcePhone has the capability to augment the interaction between users and their mobile devices.
"You don't need a special screen or built-in sensors to do this. Now this functionality can be realized on any phone. We've augmented the user interface without requiring any special built-in sensors. ForcePhone increases the vocabulary between the phone and the user," Shin said.
Yu-Chih Tung, a doctoral student who co-created the software, is also very optimistic about the applications of the technology.
"I think we're offering a natural interface, like how you turn a knob. It's the next step forward from a basic touch interface and it can complement other gestured communication channels and voice," Tung said.