Over the years, our smartphones have migrated from the dull monochrome screens to HD touch-based displays to those capable of providing glasses-free 3D imagery. But what's next? What's in the next stage of the smartphone evolution? Perhaps it's a gesture-based screen as demonstrated by Qualcomm at UpLinq China 2011 -- smudging the screen with greasy fingertips will no longer be required.
According to Qualcomm product manager Jason Baron, the prototype screen uses an ultrasound microphone and four speakers to control apps and gestures. "When you put your hand over the device, the ultrasound recognizes where you are, and allows you to control the app," he says in the video below while waving a hand across the screen to cycle through an image carousel.
Baron also demonstrates in the video how to zoom into an individual picture by moving his hand toward the device, but the demo itself clearly shows how difficult this will be when used in a noisy, crowded room. Of course, this ultrasound-based screen is a prototype, so there's lots of room and time for refinements. Qualcomm believes that devices incorporating ulrasound-based displays could be launched before the end of 2012.
Yet despite the cool factor, gesture-based controls might be more suited for tablets and desktop screens rather than a smartphone. This specific design means smartphone makers will need to figure out how to cram an ultrasound microphone and four speakers into a smartphone form factor while also keeping the overall cost reasonable.