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Sony Xperia sola "floating touch" magic explained

Sony Xperia sola
The Sony Xperia sola, previously referred to as the Xperia Pepper, got unveiled yesterday and much of the fuss about it was the new “floating touch” screen. The technology makes it possible for your smartphone to detect when you hover your finger up to 0.79 inches (20mm) above it, so you can control certain things without even touching the display.

But how does Sony make the magic work? Erik Hellman, research engineer at Sony Mobile and one of the inventors of the technology, explains in a detailed blog post and here’s what it boils down to. “Floating touch” is a technology that is innovative by combining already existing capacitive touchscreen implementations.

As you probably know, you need conductivity in order for your capacitive screen to work. But there are two types of display which differ in the strength of the signal they receive. 

First, there are self capacitance displays with strong signal. They can detect your finger from 0.79 inches, but have a limitation - they don’t support multitouch.

Second, there are multi capacitive screens which work with multitouch but in order to narrow down the exact position of each finger they reduce the signal strength, so they can’t register a hovering finger.

Self capacitance

Self capacitance "ghosting" (the red crosses) occurs when you place two fingers on the screen. The phone can't determine the exact position of the fingers and instead detects four instead of two contact points.


This is where Sony innovates by bringing the two together in its “floating touch” display on the Sony Xperia sola. “By leveraging on the existing capacitive touch sensor, and lowering the threshold for touch registration, it will be possible to differentiate between floating touch and “normal” touch,” Sony explains.

To make use of the technology, though, the apps will need to support it. So far, Sony is supporting floating touch in the browser and the live wallpapers, and that’s about it. The company promises to open up APIs for developers with the upgrade to ICS for the Xperia sola, and this means very soon programmers could bring this to apps near you. Check out the video below for a demonstration of how the technology works and let us know - is that the new input method we’ve all secretly wanted?

source: Sony Mobile

25 Comments
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posted on 14 Mar 2012, 09:05 6

1. buggerrer (Posts: 288; Member since: 21 Sep 2011)


why would I want my fingers to be hanged mm away from the screen!!
i will touch it, easier and more comfortable!

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 09:41 14

10. dmk1928 (Posts: 3; Member since: 02 Mar 2012)


Why don't you watch the video? It's just how a mouse works. You hover over the screen and it highlights what you're over so then you can click what you want and not something by mistake. That will make precise clicking a hundred times easier. I think it's an awesome feature. Just figure out how to incorporate multitouch and it would be perfect.

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 20:56 3

17. vitormv (Posts: 2; Member since: 15 Jan 2011)


less fingerprints??

posted on 18 Dec 2012, 17:11

24. buccob (Posts: 1557; Member since: 19 Jun 2012)


This is very practical, and probably is what is being implemented in their Wet Tracking technology...

Sony rugged phones covered in water can be still touch and respond...

Try that on an iphone or any other phone for that matter...

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 09:11 20

2. dil2abu (Posts: 201; Member since: 09 Nov 2011)


Xperia Play - Joypad
Xperia NXT Series - Transparent illuminating notification bars
Xperia P - White Magic Display
Xperia Sola - Floating Touch

Go Sony..
Make.Believe

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 09:14 20

3. Commentator (Posts: 2494; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)


They need to combine these into a single superphone.

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 20:31 2

16. scnix (Posts: 41; Member since: 01 Jul 2010)


Exactly my thoughts.

posted on 15 Mar 2012, 01:51 6

19. Nimpuz (Posts: 8; Member since: 15 Mar 2012)


dil2abu you forgot to mention Xperia Arc - Sexy Curvature

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 09:18 7

4. arcq12 (Posts: 733; Member since: 13 Oct 2011)


its useful for guys who have big fingers.. some people are just plain whatever..

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 09:25 8

5. mukrenol (Posts: 90; Member since: 03 Sep 2011)


yay, that technology will not be on an iphone

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 10:36 7

13. adjou (Posts: 102; Member since: 06 Jul 2010)


Until they take it and claim their own of course... :P

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 09:26 3

6. plgladio (Posts: 313; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)


Technology is awesome, gifted people invents a lot. Great people use them, like us :D

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 09:33 2

7. shadez10 (Posts: 406; Member since: 15 Jan 2012)


REALLY NOT PRACTICAL FOR DAILY USE... -_-

its more comfortable to touch the screen in navigating... -_-

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 21:26 3

18. Mario1017 (Posts: 336; Member since: 04 Sep 2011)


did you watch the video? its not for navigating. its for precise touching on certain sports that are clogged with buttons on the screen. That is very useful especially when browsing

posted on 15 Mar 2012, 02:39 1

20. shadez10 (Posts: 406; Member since: 15 Jan 2012)


isnt touching the screen for also navigating?..

thats my opinion and if you dont like it just ignore...

posted on 15 Mar 2012, 21:17 3

22. Mario1017 (Posts: 336; Member since: 04 Sep 2011)


you cant have an opinion on something if you dont even understand it

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 09:33 5

8. sonisoe (Posts: 336; Member since: 06 May 2009)


apple wouldve made a bang out of it like their beta siri....

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 09:41 1

9. JonBjSig (Posts: 176; Member since: 17 Nov 2011)


I think this has some promise as long as they don't use it for any major controls, it'd be fine for hovering over links.
Also, my Nexus S detect my finger when I hover 1 or half mm above the screen.

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 09:59 7

11. RamyRamz69 (Posts: 390; Member since: 12 Dec 2011)


Sony...innovating since 1946.

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 10:17

12. joey18 (Posts: 545; Member since: 20 Jul 2010)


Needs to. Bring super phone not only one phone so sony makes good electronics but cell models are ugly

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 10:59 5

14. atree (Posts: 25; Member since: 20 May 2011)


great idea, i always hit the wrong part on my touch screen b\c i have big fingers this would help out alot.

posted on 14 Mar 2012, 20:07

15. InspectorGadget80 (Posts: 6729; Member since: 26 Mar 2011)


Now this is cool! I just hope they put this on the SONY iON or other SONY models.

posted on 05 May 2012, 09:48 1

23. kastor (Posts: 43; Member since: 15 Jan 2012)


soyn show they can make somethin differnet,something new,not copy,original thing,

posted on 19 Jul 2014, 22:18

25. Settings (Posts: 704; Member since: 02 Jul 2014)


I had this phone for over 2 years!

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