Walking down the street idly stroking your pocket will no longer be an arrestable offence, if Microsoft Research has its way.

Its latest project - dubbed PocketTouch - uses a special capacitive sensor to recognise touches to the phone's screen through fabric.

Coupled with Microsoft's Ink digital handwriting system, it means you could spell out texts letter by letter while the device is tucked in your trousers. It will also let you skip music tracks and answer calls without removing the phone.

What not to wear

The sensor is capable of detecting strokes through 25 common fabrics, although we're not sure if it will work through our padded leather jackets.

The strokes are interpreted through software running on the device which is able to distinguish different multi-stroke letters such as X and F.

With Apple's Siri and the possibility of 3D headtracking in Android's Ice Cream Sandwich, we seem to be moving away from phones you have to physically hold to interact with, and this seems like a step in that direction.

But there are a number of other problems Microsoft must overcome - presumably the phone must be naked and facing outwards for interaction, and anyone with a smartphone will know what dangerous places key and change-filled pockets can be.

Via SlashGear