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Ultrasonic tech brings iPhone 6S Force Touch to any phone

An intriguing new technological breakthrough could conceivably bring an equivalent to Apple’s Force Touch to any other phone.

The iPhone 6S isn’t Apple’s most exciting smartphone release, but it does have one cool (if under-utilised) feature: Force Touch.

This screen technology opens up a new layer of shortcuts and control sophistication by detecting precisely how hard you’re pressing on the screen.

Read also: iPhone 7

Now engineers at the University of Michigan have managed to replicate the effects of such technology without the need for a special screen layer. It’s called ForcePhone.

As TechCrunch reports, ForcePhone works by harnessing ultrasound. The phone’s speaker is made to output a high frequency sound covering the 18-24 kHz range, which is well outside the limits of human hearing.

When the user presses the screen, the nature of the sound as picked up by the phone’s mic changes, and special software notes that variance. While it’s not at the level of Apple’s Force Touch sensitivity, ForcePhone can pick up a variety of pressure levels.

It can also detect pressure on other parts of the phone, not just the screen. For example, you could return to the home screen by simply squeezing the sides of your handset.

In the second Batman phone story of the day, UM professor Kang Shin and grad student Yu-Chih Tung were inspired by the scene in The Dark Knight where (SPOILER ALERT) Batman utilises a network of smartphones as sonic locators.

“I thought it was an interesting idea to turn smartphones into a sonar-based system and felt this could lead to new applications to address challenges faced by smartphone users,” says Tung.

There’s no news on a possible public release for this ForcePhone technology, but it’s interesting to see a pure software alternative to one of the best smartphone hardware innovations of recent years.

Take a look at our iPhone 6S review video:

Would you welcome touch sensitivity on your next phone, or is it a gimmick? Let us know in the comments

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