By Evan Ackerman
Buttons were a good idea for controlling gadgetry. Touchscreens were a better idea, and tilt sensors improved usability further. The problem with all of these interfaces, however, is you have to do unnatural things with your device to get them to function, especially if your gadget is just a big screen, which is the sexy thing to do nowadays. Microsoft has developed a demonstration device (it’s a hacked up Samsung UMPC) with built-in force sensors that respond when your hands put pressure on the unit… For example, you might squeeze the unit to zoom in on a picture, and then stretch it to zoom out. The advantage of this method is that you don’t have to take your hands off the device, and you don’t have to change the orientation either.
It’s just a research project, but it has such obvious applications to gadgets that are getting more and more compact and consequently more complicated to control, that I’m relatively optimistic about this technology making the jump from prototype to production sooner rather than later.