While your future smartphone may come with advanced features such as fingerprint sensors and flexible displays, accessories for mobile devices may also take a leap forward. A recently published patent from Microsoft details technology that embeds touch-based sensors directly into cases for mobile devices.
Microsoft emphasizes that the goal of these sensors is to create contextually aware smartphone and tablet cases that can tell when you’re reading a book, watching a video or surfing the Web. The mobile device cover would detect the user’s grip pattern and carry out an associated action, and the patent’s language hints that owners will be able to customize which command is paired with a specific touch pattern. In its filing, Microsoft adds that interactions with these sensors can be used to trigger various apps or enable/disable certain features by simply touching the smartphone skin in a particular way.
These sensor-filled cases may also include NFC support, as Microsoft explains that pressing devices together while wearing these skins can transfer photos or other types of information. Such an accessory would allow users to perform gestures on the back of the device as well, adding another method of input besides the touch screen display.
“Due in part to the small size of some devices and touch, the types and number of “on screen” gestures that can be provided by a particular device may be limited,” the patent reads.
Contextually aware sensors aren’t a new concept for smartphones, but we have yet to see devices with such features hit the market. However, that could all change very soon with the advent of devices such as Motorola’s Moto X phone, which is expected to come with embedded sensors that respond to your touch and location. Apple has also been holding a patent for backside touch controls since 2010, and LG is rumored to implement rear inputs in its next flagship smartphone.