Synaptics ForcePad: Laptop Trackpad Is About to Change Forever

It seems like simple mouse or trackpad click – the primary way users tell their personal computers what they want them to do – is on its way out.

A new kind of laptop trackpad, ForcePad, has been recently introduced by hardware-maker Synaptics.

Now a user doesn’t have to click a button or tap the pad to activate something on the screen. Instead, the ForcePad works by sensing how much pressure is applied to it.

Mouse click is now replaced with the pressure tracking, which can detect five fingers at the same time, and is able to sense up to 1000 grams of force with 64 levels of differentiation.

“If the ForcePad [pictured at top] had been around 15 years ago, I don’t know if we would ever have used the mouse,” said Rick Bergman, the chief executive of Synaptics.

“This is the biggest thing in touch innovation since the launch of the TouchPad in 1995,” he added.

“Founded in 1986 by microprocessor pioneer Federico Faggin, Synaptics has shipped more than 1 billion capacitive touch products since the 1990s. It launched its TouchPad touch-control system for laptops and replaced the two buttons on it with the ClickPad later on,” reports Venture Beat.

The introduced device is also said to support five new gestures and actions which take advantage of the new technology (keep in mind that third-party developers are only just starting to play with the ForcePad).

“Given that Synaptics has worked with Microsoft to develop a sent of specifications and guidelines for the OEM design of trackpads, the ForcePad is fully optimized for the new operating system and all its touch-friendly perks,” writes Gizmodo.

However, the main question – what are the benefits of the Synaptics breakthrough?

First of all, it will make a PC trackpad more responsive and accurate. Experts explain that the variations of trackpad sizes and its techniques have made the experience vary from laptop to laptop. There’re no identical trackpads.

However, with the ForcePad, the situation has changed as there’s an added dimension of touch sensing, which allows the trackpad to constantly auto-calibrate itself on the fly, always choosing optimal, and consistent, peformance no matter what laptop is being used.

Secondly, as the pad has no click mechanism, the new generation trackpad takes up less space in a device, which could allow for thinner laptops. At only 2.8 millimeters thick, Synaptics likes to tout that the pad is thinner than your average slice of cheese.

The company revealed that its new product won’t be on sale until sometime next year. The Windows 8 running PCs are therefore likely to use today’s traditional ClickPads built by Synaptics.

“The ambition is to enable Windows-based devices to get ahead of rivals such as Apple in user interface design”, said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Technology.

He went on, adding, “Both ThinTouch and ForcePad are significant technologies in that they greatly enhance the PC experience for Windows 8.”

“PC manufacturers, who are getting hammered by Apple in the premium PC market, now have a potential UI weapon to fight with that isn’t just playing catch up.”

“ They have the chance to get ahead of Apple on the hardware.  OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) can no longer stick to their conservative user interface plans or try to save a dollar by buying cheap touchpads and keyboards,” Moorhead added.

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