A Synaptics ThinTouch prototypeSynaptics' next big input product will be the ForcePad, but a little beyond that in the company's timeline is something just as impressive: the force- and touch-sensitive keyboard.
The company announced this ThinTouch keyboard technology in early August. As the name suggests, ThinTouch is thinner than today's rubber dome and scissor keyboards. It boasts a thickness of no more than 2.5mm. This is compared to today's technology, which requires a z-height between 3.5mm and 6mm. As with any space savings, this will enable system makers to make thinner and light devices, or to use the extra room for more hardware and bigger batteries.
Those curious as to how Synaptics achieved this feat will have to stay tuned, as the company wasn't quite ready to reveal everything just yet. We were given a blind test of several key technologies, and we chose ThinTouch as the one with the best tactile feel without any prompting or intervention from Synaptics. The ThinTouch keys had a very distinct springiness that pleased our touch-typing habits. To our fingers, ThinTouch does not noticeably decrease key travel compared to other notebook keyboards; the space savings appears to come mostly from the underlying mechanism.
While all can easily appreciate the thinner keyboard technology, ThinTouch also packs something a bit more revolutionary: capacitive touch and force sensitivity. Synaptics proposed that this can lead to new input models such as increased force to mean capital letters, or using the touch-sensitive keys to disable accidental trackpad inputs.
The company's sizzle video demonstrates some of this. Only time will tell if system makers will adopt the touch aspects of ThinTouch, but we can't wait to see the benefits of the lower profile keys.