Fuffr Wants To Add Off-Screen Multitouch To Your iPhone For Social Gaming

Fuffr knows smartphone users like multitouch, so it wants to add more areas of multitouch around your multitouch phone so you can do more multitouching.

Why is it trying to do this? It reckons extra space for gestures will come in handy if you want to huddle around a single device to play multiplayer games. So this is — initially, at least — a play for social gaming on mobile (rather than social mobile gaming, which is of course something completely different. Keep up).

How will this additional multitouch witchcraft be achieved? Fuffr is building a smartphone case that shoots infrared light out of its sides so that four areas around the case are able to support gesture-based interactions, such as pinch-to-zoom or swiveling, much like a touchscreen.

Fuffr’s pitch is that this extra real estate for multitouch will spark interest in multiplayer games since one screen can be shared by multiple people without becoming contested and congested by too many fingers.

It says it does also see potential for the tech in other scenarios where you might not want to or easily be able to touch the screen — such as cooking or when wearing gloves — but has decided gaming holds the most promise so is focusing its initial push there.

Giving gesture tech the finger

Now we’ve seen various gesture-based interface plays before of course — even, on mobile phones, as far back as Sony Ericsson’s 2009 motion-sensing handset. (A handset that basically flopped.)

At the livingroom console scale there’s Microsoft’s Kinect tech. More recently Leap Motion had a crack at broadening the appeal of gesture interfaces by offering a plug-in peripheral so you could use gestures on your PC. Meanwhile ultrasound’s gesture-supporting potential on mobile is being probed by Qualcomm and others. So there’s lots going on here already.

But, it must be said, there is not a huge amount of uptake of any of these additional gesture interface technologies — certainly not compared to capacitive touchscreen multitouch tech, which has been so rampantly successful.

Still, Fuffr thinks it’s onto something by sticking gesture tech into a smartphone case. That does have the advantage that you can add extra multitouch to an existing iOS device (it’s building its case for iPhones initially).

But of course the big challenge here will be getting developers to build the apps that support Fuffr’s IR-shooting case. Otherwise it’s, well, all going to be rather pointless. Unless you’re ok on spending $59 on a smartphone case.

It claims to have shipped an SDK kit to some 200 developers to get them building apps for its hardware, while it tries to raise a rather hefty $250,000 in crowdfunds on Kickstarter to get the case to market next April. At the time of writing it is a long way off the latter goal — with just over $10,000 raised and only 17 days left to crowdfund the rest. So that doesn’t bode well for the former goal either.

“So far we have build five apps ourselves,” Fuffr founder Stefan Östergårde tells TechCrunch. “We also know that developers are building new games with our API. I can not say how many games will come from the community but so far we have received good feedback when it comes to performance and the concept.”

“It is the first version so we have a list with improvements that will applied in the new consumer version at spring,” he adds.

Does the world need a multitouch smartphone case for social gaming on a mobile? Or does it just need more expansion packs for Cards Against Humanity? Over to you…