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TouchDevice software makes 'dumb phones' touch-sensitive

UK-based InputDynamics is developing software that could equip button-only phones with some of the capabilities of touchscreen devices, by converting the sound of a tap into an action.

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InputDynamics is developing software that could equip button-only 'dumb phones' with some of the capabilities of touchscreen devices.

The Cambridge-based firm says its TouchDevice software can convert a tap, swipe or fingernail scratch on a phone's screen or casing into actions such as selecting an icon, scrolling through a menu and zooming.

The distinct sounds produced by a tap, swipe or scratch are picked up by the phone's built-in microphone. Those sounds are then analysed by TouchDevice's algorithms to identify how and where the phone was touched. Once that's done, a sound-specific action is initiated. 

According to InputDynamics, the software will have to be trained to recognise the varying acoustic properties of each phone model that it could run on. Although no phone maker is currently building the software into its devices, InputDynamics claims to be in talks with a number of manufacturers about licensing its software. As no hardware is involved, the software could apparently be applied to most existing handsets.

InputDynamics says the software can recognise a tap anywhere on a phone's surface to with 1cm square. That could potentially result in some interesting new designs.

InputDynamics also claims that TouchDevice will eventually be able to recognise simultaneous touch inputs from multiple digits, effectively providing non-touchscreen phones with multi-touch capabilities.