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Synaptics shows off ForcePad technology

Synaptics shows off ForcePad technology

The Synaptics ForcePad combines pressure-sensing technology reminiscent of a graphics tablet with a dead-zone-free touchpad.

Human interface device specialist Synaptics has released details of a technology it claims will lead to a revolution in laptop control: the ForcePad.

Designed as a next-generation replacement to the touchpad, the ForcePad ditches the traditional clicking mechanism for a pressure-sensitive multi-touch surface. Unlike a traditional touchpad, which can detect where your fingers are but not how hard they are pressing, the ForcePad is claimed to be able to sense both the position and the pressure of up to five simultaneous points.

The basic technology isn't exactly revolutionary: digitiser tablets have featured up to 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity for years, while even the cheapest laptops come with touchpads capable of at least two-point multi-touch sensing. Combining the two, however, is pretty clever - and promises to bring some new gestures to the fore.

As well as the usual graphics-related functions such as increasing the thickness or opacity of a line according to pressure, Synaptics suggests that the system will allow for adjustments in scrolling speed with harder presses meaning faster scrolling, fine control of fast-forward and rewind speed for media, and an inertia-like system which will continue the effects of a gesture - such as fling-to-scroll - for longer the harder you pressed.

The ForcePad also does away with moving parts completely: no area of the device itself is clickable, with the system relying entirely on a tap-to-click principle. As a result, the ForcePad has no 'dead areas' corresponding to buttons, and is significantly thinner than a traditional touchpad - ideal, Synaptics claims, for Ultrabooks and similar ultra-portable designs.

The devices will come with Synaptics' Gesture Suite, a software package enabling compatibility with both the gestures integrated into Windows 8 as well as the force-enhanced gestures Synaptics has come up with itself.

What Synaptics hasn't yet detailed, however, is how much extra a ForcePad will cost over a traditional touchpad. As a result, we're expecting the answer to be a not-insignificant sum - and, as a result, the ForcePad to be restricted to devices aimed at the higher end of the price spectrum initially.

More details, and a couple of demonstration videos, are available on Synaptics' website.

10 Comments

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Griffter 21st August 2012, 12:28 Quote
... and, as a result, the ForcePad to be lost in the chasms of overpriced novelty peripherals.
Kacela 21st August 2012, 12:29 Quote
I predict this will be the last separate iteration of the [Skid]Pad, as virtual keyboard / control pads / touch-screens will become one.

As an aside, the best laptop pointing device ever was the TouchStyk / TrackPoint. /nostalgia :-)
theshadow2001 21st August 2012, 12:44 Quote
Someone put an extra s in the link and its broken :`(

My synaptics touchpad on what must be a 2008 era laptop can detect pressure. There is even a scrolling graph as part of the driver which goes up an down with pressure applied. Not revolutionary is certainly one way to put it.
Gareth Halfacree 21st August 2012, 12:51 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by theshadow2001
Someone put an extra s in the link and its broken :`(
Fixed, ta.
BLC 21st August 2012, 13:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kacela
As an aside, the best laptop pointing device ever was the TouchStyk / TrackPoint. /nostalgia :-)

My ThinkPad has a nipple-pointer, and it's fair to say that I'm a convert. Far more precise and accurate than a trackpad.

I've even managed to convert my other half to nipple-pointers...
Flibblebot 21st August 2012, 14:21 Quote
Do nipple pointers work better when it's cold? :D

On a more serious note, I'm not entirely sure I know what the point of a pressure-sensitive touchpad is - after all, how many people use a touchpad for anything other than moving the mouse and left-clicking. It just sounds a bit gimmicky to me..?
Griffter 21st August 2012, 14:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by BLC
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kacela
As an aside, the best laptop pointing device ever was the TouchStyk / TrackPoint. /nostalgia :-)

My ThinkPad has a nipple-pointer, and it's fair to say that I'm a convert. Far more precise and accurate than a trackpad.

I've even managed to convert my other half to nipple-pointers...

nipple-pointer's need to be calibrated often tho, well thats my reasoning, based on 10yr old info ( which was the last time i researched this :-D )
blacko 21st August 2012, 14:48 Quote
i wish you could just tap on the screen and use your fingers to do multi-touch stuff.....oh wait.
Griffter 21st August 2012, 15:05 Quote
sci-fi.. i mean syfy
Fizzban 21st August 2012, 15:48 Quote
Should have brought this out 5 years ago when laptops were the thing to have. Now touchscreen tablets are the thing to have.
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