It looks like Microsoft will prefer that users not touch McLaren, the upcoming Windows Phone that rumors indicate will see a wide release this coming fall. That’s not because it doesn’t want users to buy it – it does. It’s because new rumors indicate McLaren will introduce 3D motion technology that’ll allow users to control their devices without ever touching the screen.
A new report from The Verge citing sources with intimate knowledge of Microsoft’s Windows Phone plans revealed a few details about McLaren’s 3D touch technology earlier today.
McLaren buyers will be able to answer the phone by simply holding it to their ear or sitting the phone on a coffee to table to enable speakerphone. Today’s report even indicates users will be able to place McLaren in their pocket to hang up on phone calls. The idea is to bring the natural user interface tricks that Microsoft and Nokia have learned over the years to smartphones, which is a market that hasn’t heavily adopted natural user interfaces beyond voice commands and personal assistants like Siri.
The report also indicates that users will be able to zoom in on pictures and navigate the Windows Phone interface using hand gestures too. Being able to browse through Windows Phone apps without touching the device could come in handy for those with wet hands or who those who are trying to multitask.
As one might assume, to enable this kind of functionality McLaren is going to include a ton of sensors. Reportedly, the sides of the phone itself will have sensors built into them so that McLaren can lock its screen orientation when it’s warranted. Allegedly, killing off extra buttons like the power button are also key to Microsoft’s plans for McLaren. McLaren could come out of sleep by just detecting that it’s in the user’s hands too.
If the idea of being able to control a device using gestures sounds familiar it’s because there are a few examples of this technology being sold already. The $499 Xbox One includes a Kinect 2 sensor that allows users to interact with the console without ever having to push a button. In fact, the console and a paired television can all be activated by just saying “Xbox, On.” The Kinect 2 sensor is key here since a report from WPCentral earlier this year indicated that Microsoft was leveraging what it learned with Kinect to build out McLaren’s gesture support. That report indicated Microsoft had already included support for its 3D Touch technology in Windows Phone 8.1, but left it hidden.
It might also sound familiar because Samsung added a feature similar to 3D Touch in the Samsung Galaxy S4. Dubbed Air Gesture, the feature was widely profiled during the device’s launch. Since then the feature has been referred to as a gimmick since the Galaxy S4 uses the front-facing web camera instead of any specialized sensing technology for Air Gesture. That lack of specialized hardware makes Air Gesture seriously unreliable.
Doubling down on reports from last week concerning Microsoft’s timeline for new devices, today’s report also indicates that Microsoft plans to release McLaren to multiple carriers in the United States later this year. McLaren will include a special software update that builds on top of the Windows Phone 8.1 update that should start rolling out for free sometime this summer. Reportedly, it’ll include some new interface elements that’ll make 3D Touch more approachable. When it does arrive, only Microsoft’s Windows Phones will support 3D touch technology. If that’s true then it’ll be a huge differentiator for Microsoft as it begins selling its own branded smartphones while continuing to make Windows Phone available to hardware partners like HTC, Lenovo and Samsung.
Amazon is set to reveal what appears to be a phone with 3D Touch-like technology of its own later this month.