A Quick Introduction Into Force Touch
The technology of processing different degrees of pressure on (multi-)touch interfaces has received much attention in the last months, due to diverse product releases by Apple.
Force Touch, Force Click, Pressure Touch, 3D Touch
Those are all names for the same or very alike technological solutions. And they all add one new “thing” to the device’s natural user interface: we all know gestures like tapping, swiping, pinching or shaking. But with Force Touch the pressure of a touch interaction is being measured (and possibly then a haptic feedback is returned).
More than just having a secondary mouse click on touch interfaces, it’s really an interaction that lets the user dive deeper into the interface — and its content.
Android has offered the possibility to process different touch intensity states from its version 2.0 days on. It probably was the hardware that limited the function’s break-through on this operating system.
More recently, tools like Xposed offered a similar interaction to a broader mass of users by imitating pressure density with a measurement of the touch area.
However, this is a software-sided work-around and does not have the same psychological effect as a physical pressure touch.
But, and this was before the announcement of the iPhone 6s, Huawei presented its Mate s. This smartphone features a technology called 3D touch which measures the pressure of your touch. Huawei adverts the function of zooming into photos with this interaction. By the way, it also offers you to use your smartphone as a mobile weighing device. Some thing Apple does not want you to do.
Originally called Force Touch by Apple, current devices like the iPhone 6s offer an improved technology called 3D Touch.
The difference between Force Touch and 3D Touch is the way the pressure is measured. Shortly explained, Force Touch sensors the degree of how much the surface is bent. 3D Touch, on the other side, measures the distance between the cover glass and the display.
Combined with an extremely quick and instant vibrating sensation it somehow feels similar to popping a bubble of plastic foil. Of course, on desktop or laptop trackpads you already have the click-feedback, so there’s no need for vibration.
With both factors at a glance, the technological recognition of the user’s interaction, and the haptic feedback by the device, it becomes a usable feature.
Force-Touch Supporting Devices (June 2016)
Apple / iOS
What is Possible?
Currently, the main focus of the developers is lead by the industries in the direction of improving game controls or integrating little tweaks in their UIs, like fast-forwarding videos with Force Touch. One of the most apparent additions to iOS are Quick Actions accessible on app icons, which let you use certain functions of the apps without having to open them.
But obviously, this technology has much more to offer. I can imagine quite well that it can drastically improve how we use websites, for example at password masking and showing, or using (text) content. For a real change it would require the rest of the interface device industry to also implement such a functionality. Current rumors say that Apple is going to release a new 3D Touch ready mouse, so only the iPad would be left to support this technology.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many more examples of very good use of force touch available right now. I hope that this will change in the near future, because I really enjoy using this technology and I think many other people also do so.