If you’ve ever tried to use your smartphone in the freezing cold, no doubt you’ve had to take your gloves off in order to use it. Or maybe you’ve spent money on special smartphone gloves with finger flaps. Well, keep your money, stick to your old gloves and wave goodbye those cold fingers! With the new Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) update for Xperia™ sola, you’ll find a new feature called glove mode, which is an extension of the Floating touch technology. As you might guess, this makes it possible to use the touch screen even though you’re wearing gloves. In this article, we explain the benefits of glove mode, and talk to Andreas Sandblad at Sony, who’s the inventor of this technology. Read on for the full story!
Keep your fingers warm with glove mode
When we first unveiled Xperia sola, this also marked the introduction of a new technology never before seen in any smartphone called Floating touch. This technology lets you highlight the links in the web browser without even touching the screen. Now, with the Xperia sola ICS update, you’ll find a new extension of Floating touch™, called glove mode, which lets you use your Xperia™ sola with your gloves on.
Andreas Sandblad, software architect at Sony and inventor of glove mode, explains how he came up with the idea for glove mode:
I came up with the idea during a brain-storming session at the office, where we were discussing what cool features we could use Floating touch™ for. I’m much of an outdoor person myself, who likes to hike in the mountains, and I guess I was trying to solve the frustrating real world problem of not being able to use my phone with gloves. Turns out other people felt the same thing, and here we are. I really think glove mode is a must have.
How it works
Glove mode is enabled by default in the ICS upgrade for Xperia™ sola, so when you unlock the phone while wearing a glove (or with a bare finger in the air), you will enter glove mode and Floating touch™ mode will be disabled. In this mode, both glove touch and normal touch usage will work, for example, if you take off the gloves. There is also a cursor ring shown where you press the screen with your glove, to help you understand where you are actually pressing the screen. To turn off glove mode, you simply lock the screen and then unlock it with your bare finger touching the screen and you’re back to normal mode with Floating touch™ enabled.
The solution to detect glove mode when you’re unlocking the screen is a quite clever concept, because it allows the phone to support both glove mode and normal mode supporting Floating touch™ – what mode is entered is decided by how you unlock the screen. In glove mode we support gloves and normal touch, while in non-glove mode applications can use the Floating touch™ API (a tutorial for using this API will be published soon).
To make it possible for you to use the touch screen with a glove, the Floating touch™ events that are generated when you are touching the screen with a glove (or hovering over the screen) are rewritten as normal touch events. As you may have figured out already, it is the finger inside the glove, and not the actual glove, that the touch screen reacts to.
To get an accurate behaviour and make sure the UI only reacts when the glove is actually touching the screen and not when just hovering above the screen, some clever algorithms are used to filter the Floating touch™ event stream (depending on the glove texture thickness) before rewriting them as normal touch events. This way, you are not generating a lot of accidental touch events on the screen, while wearing a glove.
If you like, you can disable the auto-detection of glove mode in the phone Settings, under Display:
So next time there is an incoming call when it is cold outside and you are wearing gloves, you can impress your friends by picking up the phone and answering the call with your gloves on!
And for all developers out there, you will have the possibility to use Floating touch™ in your apps with the Floating touch™ API. Stay tuned to Developer World, we have more information and a tutorial coming up in the next couple of weeks!
- Learn more about Floating touch on our Technologies page.
- Watch our YouTube video demonstration of the new Glove move feature.
- Get the details on Xperia sola.
- Check out our Floating touch video on YouTube.