Sony unveils 'floating interface' touchless display

Sony Xperia sola Analysts are not sure how practical the touchless feature will be

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A smartphone that allows users to browse the web by hovering a finger above links they would normally touch has been unveiled by the Japanese electronics giant Sony.

The firm describes the technology as a "floating touch" user-interface.

The Xperia Sola handset is due to go on sale in the second half of 2012.

But some mobile phone analysts question whether the feature will be practical or popular.

Touchless world

A number of firms around the world have been exploring gesture control possibilities for quite some time.

Giants such as Apple, Microsoft and US mobile phone chip maker Qualcomm, as well as several small start-ups, are currently developing camera-based touchless technology.

Their aim is to let users perform tasks such as answering the phone, navigating the web and flicking through photos using gestures - for instance, snapping fingers in front of the screen.

Start Quote

It may be useful, for instance, when your hands are wet, but we still need to see the other practical implications of it”

End Quote Chris Barraclough Mobile Choice magazine

Sony's new "floating interface" is different.

A user's finger will essentially act as a mouse cursor, highlighting a link. Once selected, it can be activated it with a single tap.

Calum MacDougall of Sony Mobile Communications called the phone's technology "a sense of magic".

Wet hands

But not everyone is that optimistic.

Chris Barraclough, devices editor at Mobile Choice magazine, said that it was unclear how popular and practical the feature would be.

"It is certainly an original piece of technology, and may be useful, for instance, when your hands are wet, but we still need to see other practical implications of it," he said.

Although it may seem that the feature could help users eliminate fingerprint smudges that inevitably cover any smartphone screen, Mr Barraclough thinks otherwise.

"I don't think it will really help - just pulling your phone out of your pocket already leaves lots of smudges," he said.

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