Motorola’s venture capital arm invested an undisclosed amount in a company that it believes represents the future of touch-based user interfaces.

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

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 recognises 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.

Sensitive Object was founded in 2003 and its 20 engineers are based in Paris and Singapore.

Motorola has been working hard to turn around its dramatic loss of market share and profits. It has whittled down the many operating systems that it used to build phones on to primarily just one: Android. Its first two Android phones both have touch screens and appear to be selling reasonably well.