Neonode zForce uses infrared LEDs to measure pressure, replace capacitive touch (hands-on)

Smartphone fanatics may recall the Neonode N2 -- a rather unique recall-plagued feature phone that ultimately resulted in the demise of the company's handset arm. Neonode is still a major player in the portable device market, but may be more familiar to OEMs that employ its infrared LED-based touch technology, rather than consumers that utilize it in e-readers, with tablets soon joining the mix. zForce offers several advantages over its capacitive-based counterparts -- it's incredibly responsive and accurate, and can now measure the intensity (or pressure) of your touch, and not just position. There's also a built-in proximity sensor that can be added to any device for a few pennies, which is considerably less than traditional offerings. However, because Neonode uses an array of infrared LEDs and photodiodes, a raised bezel is required to accommodate the additional hardware, making it impossible to integrate a flush display.

We went hands-on with an updated smartphone-sized embed of the company's zForce technology that not only works with any object, such as a finger, pen or a paint brush, but also recognizes both the pressure of your implement and also its size, so a larger paint brush has broader strokes than a smaller one, for example. Because the device can operate at 500Hz all the way up to 1,000Hz (refreshing 1,000 times per second), it appears to be incredibly responsive, with an almost unnoticeable delay between the time you touch the pad and when your input is displayed on the screen. A second demo unit, called Stargate, offers dual-layer touch with support for 3D control -- you can literally reach inside the unit to manipulate an object. There's no word on when this latest tech will make its way into devices, or how exactly we'll see it used, but you really need to see it in action to get a feel for how it works -- jump past the break for our video hands-on.%Gallery-149305%