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