Mitsubishi '3D Touchscreen' Knows How Far Away Your Finger Is, Prevents Sneaky Pokes

You know how some capacitive touchscreens seem to twitch when fingers are hovered near them? Mitsubishi has stretched that ability to the extreme, creating a magic(ish) touch panel that can track depth, too.

That someone has accomplished 3D motion tracking isn't the news here—it's that they've done it in single panel, without extra cameras or sensors and with a very high level of precision. How high? It measures your finger distance in steps of about .08mm, up to a distance of 20mm, and does so quickly enough that it can accurately guess its approach speed. Because of its short range, Mitsubishi says this tech will be most useful for mobile devices, which could add an extra method of interaction—hovering—to devices.

What's really exiting is to imagine how this could change interfaces. Mitsu has a few examples already, but the possibilities are endless. Consider a plugin for your phonebook that senses apprehensive hovering and gives relevant advice? ("What are you doing? SHE BROKE YOUR HEART?") or, more realistically, right-click-like controls for touch-only devices like the iPhone, which could display additional information like link URLs, file previews, extended contact info.

Though they haven't given a clue as to when they'll bring this tech market, they did say that "it will first be used for our products," and, promisingly, that it took "only a few changes" to a currently available panel to achieve the effect, and shouldn't significantly increase costs. [Tech-on]