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

Related phones

Xperia sola
  • Display 3.7" 480 x 854 pixels
  • Camera 5 MP
  • Processor ST-Ericsson NovaThor U8500, Dual-core, 1000 MHz
  • Storage 8 GB + microSDHC
  • Battery 1320 mAh(5.00h 3G talk time)

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25 Comments

1. buggerrer

Posts: 306; Member since: Sep 21, 2011

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

10. dmk1928

Posts: 3; Member since: Mar 02, 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.

17. vitormv

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 15, 2011

less fingerprints??

24. buccob

Posts: 2945; Member since: Jun 19, 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...

2. dil2abu

Posts: 315; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

Xperia Play - Joypad Xperia NXT Series - Transparent illuminating notification bars Xperia P - White Magic Display Xperia Sola - Floating Touch Go Sony.. Make.Believe

3. Commentator

Posts: 3722; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

They need to combine these into a single superphone.

16. scnix

Posts: 41; Member since: Jul 01, 2010

Exactly my thoughts.

19. Nimpuz

Posts: 8; Member since: Mar 15, 2012

dil2abu you forgot to mention Xperia Arc - Sexy Curvature

4. arcq12

Posts: 733; Member since: Oct 13, 2011

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

5. mukrenol

Posts: 92; Member since: Sep 03, 2011

yay, that technology will not be on an iphone

13. adjou

Posts: 106; Member since: Jul 06, 2010

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

6. plgladio

Posts: 314; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

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

7. shadez10

Posts: 427; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

REALLY NOT PRACTICAL FOR DAILY USE... -_- its more comfortable to touch the screen in navigating... -_-

18. Mario1017

Posts: 336; Member since: Sep 04, 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

20. shadez10

Posts: 427; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

isnt touching the screen for also navigating?.. thats my opinion and if you dont like it just ignore...

22. Mario1017

Posts: 336; Member since: Sep 04, 2011

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

8. sonisoe

Posts: 440; Member since: May 06, 2009

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

9. JonBjSig

Posts: 176; Member since: Nov 17, 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.

11. RamyRamz69

Posts: 390; Member since: Dec 12, 2011

Sony...innovating since 1946.

12. joey18

Posts: 647; Member since: Jul 20, 2010

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

14. atree

Posts: 25; Member since: May 20, 2011

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

15. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

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

23. kastor

Posts: 43; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

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

25. Settings

Posts: 2942; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

I had this phone for over 2 years!

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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