If you ever wished your fat fingers would stop getting in the way of your iPhone’s touch screen, a company called Canopy thinks it has an answer.
It’s come up with an iPhone case, called Sensus, that adds touch-sensitive panels to the rear and sides of the phone. To get a feel for it, I tried a short demo of a space shooting game, where you must drag a small spaceship around while firing at incoming enemies. Controlling the ship through the rear touch panel instead of the iPhone’s touch screen prevents your fingers from obscuring the action. (This may sound familiar to owners of Sony’s PlayStation Vita, which has a rear touch panel built-in.)
Canopy has other uses in mind for Sensus. For instance, it’s developed its own camera app with functions mapped to the touch sensitive strips on the sides of the phone. That way, you can tap the edge of the phone to turn the flash on or off, or to adjust other settings. Sensus relies on the iPhone for power, but doesn’t eat away any battery life when its touch functions aren’t in use.
It’s an interesting concept, but one that will have a tough time gaining momentum. The usefulness of the device will be entirely dependent on app developers, who must add Sensus functionality to their software. At launch, Canopy expects support from roughly 20 to 50 apps–an insignificant sliver of the hundreds of thousands of apps in Apple’s store. Still, Canopy’s chief strategy officer, Matt Pacyga, said that several large game publishers have shown interest.
Canopy plans to launch Sensus this summer, priced somewhere between $59 and $99. It’ll be available for the iPhone 4, 4S and 5. Pacyga seemed unsure about the possibility of an Android version, given how many different-sized phones are on the market.
You can check out a video of the Sensus case in action below.