Motorola invests in touch-screen software maker

Communications product and service company Motorola Inc. said its venture capital arm has invested in Sensitive Object, a six-year old company that makes software for converting surfaces into touch-screens.

Motorola did not say how much it is investing in the startup, a spinoff of the French National Center for Scientific Research.

If Motorola uses technology developed by Sensitive Object, a spin-off from the French National Center for Scientific Research, it could help the struggling handset maker stay competitive.

“We are excited to be working closely with the Motorola team. Motorola is a perfect partner for our disruptive touch solution considering Motorola’s innovative and successful history with mobile phones,” said Hervé Martin, CEO of Sensitive Object.

Sensitive Object has developed technology that uses acoustics, rather than optical, resistive or capacitive technologies, to drive the touch mechanism. When a user touches a device equipped with Sensitive Object’s technology, the touch produces sound waves that are unique to the location of the impact.

The technology uses a glass panel equipped with sensors to detect the sound waves. Using signal-processing algorithms, it recognizes the acoustic signature tied to touch in a certain spot. Once the signature is recognised, it launches the associated action in a software application running on the device.

The company says that the technology can be applied to any solid surface including glass, plastic, metal and wood. That means the technology could be applied to an entire mobile phone, for example, including the sides and back. Users playing a game on a mobile phone might be able to touch any part of the device to play the game.

For Motorola, touch-screen technology is increasingly important as it looks to compete in the quickly expanding smart phone market.

The company’s most recent phone, the Droid, has a touch-screen and slide-out keyboard, Motorola’s answer to the popular iPhone from Apple Inc.

Motorola plans to release several new smart phones next year.

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