Tiny sensor allows gesture control of tablets, phones

Murata's sensor was demonstrated for the first time at Ceatec Japan

Japan's Murata Manufacturing has developed a tiny sensor that, if embedded in a computer or tablet device, allows the user to swipe and zoom without touching the display panel.

The sensor isn't much bigger than the tip of a ball pen and has three infrared light sources and a sensor inside. The three lights are arranged in a triangular "v" pattern and pulse briefly on and off in sync with one another so more than one light is never on at the same time.

It's this triangular arrangement and timing that makes gesture detection possible.

Consider a swipe from right to left, as a tablet user might make when turning the page of a book or jumping to the next photo in an album.

When the user's hand is brought over the sensor, infrared light from the right-most of the light sources is reflected by the hand first, followed by light from the source at the bottom of the "v", then light from the left-hand most source.

By analyzing the order the sensor can determine it was a swipe from right to left.

(See video of a demonstration of the sensor on YouTube.)

Swipes from left to right, up to down or down to up each have their own signature and can be easily detected.

Because the sensor is measuring reflected light, it's also possible to detect the number of fingers used to swipe. In the case of a two-fingered swipe, there will be a tiny drop in reflected light caused by the gap between the fingers because, for a moment, the light is being reflecting from further away.

The device's ability to perceive depth, which Murata says works up to about 10 centimeters away, can also be used to detect whether a hand is bring brought closer to the sensor or being moved away.

In a demonstration of the sensor at Japan's Ceatec exhibition, that detection was being used for a simple zoom control.

Beyond the detection of user motion, the same sensor can be employed to detect ambient light, motion and proximity, said Murata.

The device is still a prototype and the company says its eventual form will depend on customer wishes. Mass production is also dependant on getting orders from customers.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?