Next-Generation Laptop Touch Keyboards and Touchpads on Their Way From Synaptics

The touch experience on laptops is about to get a whole lot better. No, we’re not talking about touchscreens on Windows 8 laptops and Ultrabooks again. This time it's about more advanced touch technologies in trackpads and even mechanical keyboards.

Touch solutions company Synaptics has debuted the ForcePad, a pressure-sensitive trackpad that recognizes 64 different levels of sensitivity, and its first touch keyboard product, the ThinTouch.

Both offerings are designed to support manufacturers’ quest to make even thinner laptops and upgrade the Windows 8 experience as well. Both the ForcePad and the ThinTouch, according to Synaptics, are up-to-40-percent thinner than today’s common touchpads and keyboards. (The ForcePad is even thinner than a 3mm slice of cheese!) Those razor-thin 0.8-inch thick Ultrabooks might be able to get even slimmer as a result--or have more room for bigger internal components, such as larger batteries.

Windows 7 laptops with “multitouch” touchpads disappointingly support few gestures. The ForcePad, however, can detect all five fingers at once and when you are applying more pressure from any specific finger. This opens up the universe of gestures and controls possible on your touchpad.

Synaptics' new ForcePad
Because the ForcePad can tell when you’re clicking versus tracking, laptops would no longer need the dedicated trackpad buttons--which makes more room for all those gestures.

The ThinTouch keyboard also gets an interesting capacitive sensor, so the touchpad can be disabled automatically as soon as you start typing. According to Engadget, Synaptics is also developing a feature that will turn the space bar into a touch sensor, for things like autocomplete.

Besides being super-thin, the ThinTouch keyboard will supposedly also improve backlighting.

With most laptop keyboards already pretty shallow, it’ll be interesting to see what the typing experience will be like on these even thinner keyboards. (I, for one, am not a big fan of flat keys with little key travel). We’ll see how Synaptics handles that challenge when PC makers roll out their ultrathins with the ThinTouch. That, supposedly, will happen sometime in 2013.

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