Xperia Sola

When Sony unveiled the Xperia Sola yesterday, it was keen to tout its new "floating touch" technology as a major selling point. Unlike other touchscreen phones, the Sola can detect when a finger is hovering over the screen, not just when it's made contact. This, potentially, could present some interesting new ways of interacting with touchscreens -- for example, the Sola's browser will allow users to hover their finger over the screen like a cursor when selecting links.

Today, Sony has gone into more detail about exactly how this "magical" new technology works, debunking our theory of millions of tiny wizards living under the screen. On the company's mobile developer blog, engineer Erik Hellman explains exactly what's involved. Essentially, the Xperia Sola contains two types of capacitive sensor. There's a mutual-capacitive sensor, used for multi-touch, and a self-capacitive sensor, which generates a stronger signal, allowing it to detect conductive objects (like your greasy paws) from further away. Self-capacitive sensors aren't multi-touch capable, and mutual-capacitive sensors aren't strong enough to detect objects at a distance, but if you combine both in a single screen, you get the best of both worlds -- multi-touch when you're touching the screen, and floating touch when you're not.

We're definitely interested to see what third-party devs can do when they get hold of this tech. In the meantime, more technical details can be had over at the source link.

Source: Sony Developer Blog


Reader comments

Sony explains Xperia Sola's 'floating touch' technology


Sometimes on my Nexus S when I am browsing news sites (using the phone one handed) I will have my thumb just above the screen as I slowly scroll and accidentally hit a link and not even realize I touched the screen. It really pisses me off. I cannot see how this would be a good thing to have during normal every day use.

If they do it right then it will be like using a mouse, it will only click on the link if it detects your finger physically touching the screen. The hover over could be only used in certain programs like typing to select words.

Hopefully they have an option in the settings to allow user to turn that feature off and ignore the hover overs if it becomes to bothersome for some users.

True. I am only thinking about it as if it was suddenly tacked on to my current screen. I suppose the apps/phone would make smarter use of it.

My EVO3D does it from time to time too, particularly with the home button.

At least, it sure seems like it does.

Nice to see development. I never concidered capacitive multitouch as the ultimate invention. We should expect constant innovation in the methods to interact with our devices.

I've seen this happen by accident with several different androids...most commonly (in my experience) sony xperia x10, nexus s 4g, and evo4g. It's sort of annoying when it happens by accident, but if sony can pull this off in the proper manner, it could be a very cool new technology standard! And they are the right company to do it, imho ;)

The specific technology is new, but the functionality is totally NOT new. The Blackberry Storm and Storm 2 had the same functionality. The difference being, on the Storms you touched the screen instead of hovering over it, and then actually pressed on the screen to make it click instead of just touching it.

Personally, I think this is a GREAT thing. When I'm browsing on my phone or tablet, I often miss the functionality that comes with being able to hover your mouse over something on a Web page. And being able to have visual confirmation of what you're about to click, before you actually click it, is also really great.

All of which, you got on a Blackberry Storm. Nice to see Android finally catching up - at least on one phone. :-)

ps. I've had my Thunderbolt for almost a year and running Android (2 and now 4) on my TouchPad for months. Love them. But, I can still recognize that RIM did have a good idea with the Storms (which is what I upgraded from when I got my Thunderbolt)

That BB storm "giant-screen-physical-button" is not even close to the same as this. Not to mention that it was famous for breaking and the phone itself was famous for being so laggy it was un-useable. A military friend of mine hated his so much he took it to the woods and sniped it from a long distance.

Dear StuartV:

What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.


Sad to see such personal attacks from someone here.

The comparison to the storm is valid however, even if the phone had issues. The idea is similar, just the implementation is different.

Please take personal attacks elsewhere.

A "comparison" as you labeled it would have been valid.

What Stuart said though was: "Good to see Android finally 'catch up' to the Storm". HILARIOUS. Even the most hardened Blackberry fanboy knows that the Storm line and especially the first Storm was one of the worst smartphones ever produced and definitely the biggest blunder that ever came from RIM. To suggest any phone could "catch up" to that is a joke. An original MOTO RAZR was not only much more functional than the Storm, it was also much less anger-inducing.

I couldn't agree more. I remember when I originally had my blackberry storm and compared it to an iPhone, the person who had the iPhone was using it flawlessly whereas my blackberry storm would freeze constantly and actually rebooted during my demonstration. It was pretty embarrassing at the time. I used the copout that I used my Storm for work which was a pretty crappy excuse, but it was a horrible experience overall.

I switched to the Droid (OG) as soon as I could and have used a myriad of Android devices since and never looked back. I don't see anything competitive or usable coming from RIM anytime soon, so to compare these two is astounding.

That's certainly a good point to have a discussion on, but basing a rant about someone's intellect because of their opinion on something isn't good.

I was mostly directing my reply to the other comment though, rather than yours.

Yes. Same idea. You can do it on this new Sony... and on the Blackberry Storm and Storm 2. And those are the ONLY TWO (or three, depending on how you count them) touchscreen phones that give you that capability, that I know of.