NTT Docomo has developed Grip UI, to make it easier to use smartphones in situations such as on crowded trains, where space and mobility is restricted.
“There are touch sensors on the sides of the phone, and they detect how strongly you’re gripping and where. The values detected are used by the UI. For example, if you grip the whole phone, you can lock it. Also, if you hold it in your left hand, you can’t press the browser icon at the bottom right, but for the icons you can’t press, you can grip instead. The idea is to make using the phone with one hand more convenient.”
In Grip UI, operations are determined by combinations of where, in what order, and how strongly you grip. In this demonstration, you grip the top to open the browser, and you can grip the center to click the back button. To start the camera, you hold it horizontally as if you’re using a camera, and grip four points on the edges.
“The browser is opened just by gripping, but the gripping action doesn’t conflict with the touchscreen. So, by using grip plus touch, you get different shortcuts. It’s like using the Control key on a computer. If you swipe up after gripping, you can open bookmarks, and if you swipe to the right, you can launch the Schedule app.”
“The sensor itself responds in milliseconds, so it doesn’t feel slow. But if it’s too fast, people may find the interface too sensitive to use easily. So, we think we need to adjust that aspect further, to make it feel just right.”
“As a future development, Grip UI will also be usable instead of physical buttons, which this phone doesn’t have. With physical buttons, you can’t see how strongly you’re pressing, so you don’t get continuous changes. We think sensors of this type could replace physical buttons, so we could create smartphones with a clean, attractive form.”