Remember Neonode? The company's troubled N2 handset was so beleaguered with problems that less than a year after it launched, the company filed for bankruptcy. Since its lowest ebb, the company has reinvented itself as a component manufacturer leveraging its infrared-based user interface technology. Now it's demonstrating proof of concept hardware that shows off a way to add touch to any surface. Cool innovation or the reheated leftovers of an obsolete technology? Head on past the break to find out our initial impressions.
A square of IR bars cross-fire light above a surface and as your finger interrupts the light, it'll track your motion with a moderate degree of accuracy. We wouldn't trust it for anything intensive, but for simple gestures, it could probably do the job. For instance, trying to trace out a visible Engadget logo took more than a few attempts, and the results could often be confused due to a trailing shirtsleeve. On the upside, you can use objects of various sizes, from a pen all the way through to the corner of a notebook.
At the same time it's also showing off an automotive concept packed to the gills with the company's sensors. The steering wheel contains an internal and external ring of sensors, where an airborne waft will activate the turn sensors, one across the top can activate the in-car entertainment and two across the face can control additional functions. Some of Neonode's representatives said that it wouldn't be possible to integrate the full set into a car, as one gesture may encroach upon another, but they also said that the company was speaking to a few excited manufacturers.
Finally, the company is demonstrating a concept that it thinks will be able to extend your smartphone's user interface. An outward-facing ring of the same infrared sensors would be embedded into your smartphone's bezel, and we tried a version attached to a chunky metal bar that played different sound effects when you tapped your fingers in front of it. While it was a neat concept, we wonder if the benefits would be worth the added size and power issues inherent within. Still, if you'd like to make a judgment for yourself, you can check out the footage from the booth below.