A simple software update lets any smartphone detect squeezes and forceful touches

“Apple made a big deal about the advanced technology it developed to facilitate the 3D Touch feature on the iPhone 6s,” Andrew Liszewski reports for Gizmodo. “But engineers at the University of Michigan have not only recreated the feature such that it can work on any smartphone, they have also improved it by enabling phones to detect when they’re being squeezed, too.”

Liszewski reports, “So how can additional interactive features be added to any smartphone without adding sensors or upgrading its hardware in any way?”

“The software causes the phone to constantly emit an 18 kHz tone, which humans can’t hear, but the phone’s mic can,” Liszewski reports. “As a user presses on the touchscreen, or squeezes the phone’s housing, the force of the interaction on the smartphone alters the sound of that 18 kHz tone. The software detects the difference, and translates the force into commands.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Three questions:

1. How much battery drain is caused by having the device constantly emit and listen for an 18 kHz tone?

2. How does the device detect squeezes when the speaker and/or microphone are in use by other applications (phone, music, movies, TV shows, personal assistant, dictation, notification sounds, etc.) or when the phone itself vibrates (rings, text tones, new mail, alerts, etc.)?

3. How do dogs and other pets deal with devices that are constantly emitting an 18 kHz tone?

We’ll stick with Apple’s patented 3D Touch on our iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus units, thanks, because it’s not constantly draining the battery, it works all the time, and it doesn’t drive the dog batshit insane.

And, by the way, some humans (usually younger ones with new ears) can hear frequencies as high as 28 kHz, so we doubt babies or children are going to enjoy devices that are constantly emitting 18 kHz tones, either.

The moral of the story: If it isn’t an iPhone, it isn’t an iPhone.


  1. The human range is commonly given as 20 to 20,000 Hz, though there is considerable variation between individuals, especially at high frequencies, and a gradual loss of sensitivity to higher frequencies with age is considered normal. 18 kHz would sound like an annoying Tinnitus. My guess is their test persons were all in the 80+ group …

    1. Download a dog whistle app that lets you adjust frequency. Most people cannot hear 18khz.

      The worst hearing (in terms of high pitch sensitivity) I ever identified was a music teacher. Hearing loss is an occupational hazard.

  2. Elaborated reiteration ahead:

    The software causes the phone to constantly emit an 18 kHz tone, which humans can’t hear, but the phone’s mic can,” Liszewski reports.

    *BZZT!* Humans damned well CAN hear an 18 kHz tone! Maybe HE can’t hear it. But any kid can. I used to be able to hear it until a couple years ago! There are smartphone ringtones at 18kHz used by school kids in order to avoid attracting the attention of older teachers, who presumably can’t hear the ring.



  3. Pretty neat discovery even if it never gets put in a phone.

    The University of Michigan is a Public Ivy and one of the world’s great universities.
    Their recent history notwithstanding, they play some damn good Football.

    Go Blue!
    The Leaders & The Best

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