3D Touch Will Touch Our Lives

Front-Page Technology
3D Touch Will Touch Our Lives

Mark your calendars: September 9th, 2015 was a giant leap forward for mankind, because on that day, our day-to-day interactions with technology such as tablets, mobile phones, and laptops, changed forever.

How so?

On that day, in a manner that barely registered a notch of media attention, Apple unveiled its 3D Touch, a new feature being included into the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S plus.

It was as breathtaking and as important as the unveiling of the mouse. The mouse revolutionized digital device interactions for through the maneuvering of the mouse we were able to translate hand motions into tangible actions on our computer screens. Now, the equally groundbreaking role of 3D touch is allowing for humans to interact with our devices in a new way — nuances in gesture pressures now open up a whole new world of screen navigation.

Bluntly stated, gestures are integrated into our everyday lives.

You might press a button in an elevator to choose the 30th floor in a high rise building, aiming to get to work on a hurried morning.  The act of pressing the elevator button with a finger is nearly effortless and performed without much conscious thought.

Gesture pressure is also present in subtler actions like a physician trying to determine whether a sore arm has a shallow or deep abrasion.  The physician might at first apply gentle pressure and then increase the pushing action until the patient grimaces. Being able to use gesture pressure via our fingers is a vital and nearly subliminal act that we take for granted every day.

As we can see, gesture pressure is a fundamental human action, but until recently this aspect of human interaction has been relatively absent from our digital world.

Now, our interaction with the digital world is becoming gradually and inexorably akin to the everyday actions we undertake in the real world, due to technological advances that blur the distinction between gestures that we use in everyday life with the gestures we use when interacting with our tablets and smartphones, and Apple’s 3D Touch is no exception.

Welcome to the world of 3D sensing.

The 3D Touch feature allows for the detection of multiple pressure levels on a screen, and also provides tactile feedback, such as a vibration, to suggest the level of pressure exerted.

This has lots of practical applications, but the most immediate is what is being called peek-and-pop.

Suppose you are reading one of your many emails, and Joe or Samantha sent you a web site link that you might be interested in.  By applying a light touch to the link, it will appear as a preview; floating just above your pressing finger (you just did a “peek” via your light touch on the screen).  By applying a stronger pressure, the web site will get launched into your browser so that you can see it fully (you did a “pop” by forcing greater pressure).

Generally, a preview action in 3D sensing is known as a “peek,” while the launching of a deeper action is known as the “pop” action.  All told, it is referred to as a peek-and-pop.

That’s based on a touch that is exerted at two levels of pressure, either lightly exerted for the peek or more heavily exerted for the pop, but you could have an app that senses pressure gestures at any number of levels, such as at three levels, four levels, and so on.

The implications are that soon this will become a form of technology interaction that everyone will want. And that after a while, perhaps a year or two, it will become a form of technology interaction that everyone will expect. The 3D revolution is upon us, and the use of 3D sensing will soon be an integral part of our digital world.

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