Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Touch Interface Developments From Synaptics

CES 2013: Day 1 Highlights
By

Synaptics shared a number of touch interface products with us, along with some promising developments for the future.

Beginning with touchpads, we saw the company's ForcePad in action. Essentially a touchpad with the ability to sense finger pressure from up to five digits at a time, the ForcePad promises some interesting potential to enhance multi-touch gestures. Scrolling speed, for instance, could be better controlled depending on the amount of pressure applied. We were told that the ForcePad is expected to make its retail debut sometime this summer.

We were then shown the ThinTouch capacitive keyboard. Synaptics removed the rubber domes underneath keycaps, simultaneously eliminating the need for raised keys and allowing the entire keyboard to be used as a touchpad. Since the keyboard can tell whether the user is hovering, resting, pressing lightly, or pressing hard, there are a number of potentially interesting benefits to this technology and all this new data can be used to control output. For example, a hard press could register a capital letter, or the touchpad could automatically disable when a user's hands are detected on the keyboard. With the keys lowered, the depth for a keypress has been increased by moving them diagonally to add the perception of a longer stroke. The ThinTouch keyboard is in the prototype phase, and Synaptics doesn't expect it to become available before the second half of 2013.

We also saw the company's ClickPad 2.0, which has been redesigned with more rigidity and the mechanical mechanism integrated inside to deliver better click performance.

After seeing touchpads, we moved on to touchscreens. While we've already heard of the Nokia 920's ability to work through gloves, it was no less interesting to see this in action. If the user is wearing gloves, the phone goes into a more sensitive mode where the user can employ their gloved finger or other object (such as a pen) to operate the interface. The Synaptics representative explained that this feature isn't as simple as cranking up the sensitivity. Since noise from a number of sources could affect operation, a great deal of processing is required for this mode to work. Ever since the Nokia 920 has been released, Synaptics has received a ton of requests for this feature, so the company expects it to proliferate.

We were then shown a prototype solution for an issue that may become problematic in the future: large tablets with ultra-slim bezels. In this scenario, the user has nowhere to put their finger or thumb to hold the tablet without interfering with the touchscreen operation. With current tablets, for example, if the thumb used to hold the screen, is accidentally touching the active part of the screen, an intended finger swipe could be misinterpreted as a double-finger pinch gesture. The potential solution Synaptics is working on involves the use of two imaging sensors on back of the tablet. These sensors detect when the user is gripping the device. So, when user puts a thumb down to clamp the front of the screen, the driver recognizes it as grip event and excludes it from registering as part of a gesture. In addition, the prototype can avoid displaying data behind the gripping thumb by adjusting text margins to keep information viewable. The company envisions a future where bezel-free tablets can be arranged side-by-side to create larger displays and even accept pan-device gesturing. And that sounds like a future we can dig.

Finally, we were shown a comparison test of the accuracy of touchscreens from different manufacturers using tools to simulate different finger sizes. We were quite surprised to see the wavy lines generated on some of the competitor-built models, while Synaptics touchscreens registered smooth output. Company representatives suggested that competitor's products can suffer issues caused by a combination of firmware and sensor pattern design flaws. This is something that we'd like to test in the future, to see whether or not this actually makes a difference in the real world.

Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 10 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 1 Hide
    LukeCWM , January 9, 2013 6:04 PM
    I wonder if Turtle Beach was able to do something about the sound quality as well. I purchased a pair after reading rave reviews about the sound. Switching to the Turtle Beach headphones from my AKG is startling transition each and every time, since the Turtle Beach headphones sound so bad. If I listen to them for over an hour, I can begin to convince myself they sound better (until I listen to something else and am reminded again how bad they sound!).

    The microphone on the Turtle Beach headphones is also below par, in my opinion.
  • -2 Hide
    Nintendo Maniac 64 , January 9, 2013 8:18 PM
    Quote:
    I wonder if Turtle Beach was able to do something about the sound quality as well. I purchased a pair after reading rave reviews about the sound. Switching to the Turtle Beach headphones from my AKG


    The issue is you're essentially comparing a Core i3 (Turtle Beach) to a Core i5 (AKG). Considering that AKG is seen as one of the few that can actually get within range of Sennheiser (Core i7?) when it comes to sound quality, that should tell you something.
  • 6 Hide
    LukeCWM , January 9, 2013 9:35 PM
    Nintendo Maniac 64The issue is you're essentially comparing a Core i3 (Turtle Beach) to a Core i5 (AKG). Considering that AKG is seen as one of the few that can actually get within range of Sennheiser (Core i7?) when it comes to sound quality, that should tell you something.


    I actually prefer AKG to Sennheiser, but that's beside the point.

    I think a more accurate analogy would be describing AKG and Sennheiser as the i7-2600k and the i7-2700k, and the Turtle Beach sounds more like a Silverthorne Atom, made in 2008. My Turtle Beach headset is just dreadful...
  • 3 Hide
    Pyree , January 9, 2013 10:34 PM
    Can't wait until more news for tomorrow.
  • 0 Hide
    Hazle , January 10, 2013 1:25 AM
    love what i'm seeing out of the Xi3, though i'm not handing out any cigars just yet. not at all impressive in hardware performance, but i'll admit it looks neat. and if valve is truly thinking of making a linux based console out of it, then i'm more in support for it. i'll probably won't buy it, but at least i won't have to dish out $90-100 for an OS the next time i do a complete overhaul of my pc if gaming with linux ever kicks off successfully.
  • 0 Hide
    cookoy , January 10, 2013 6:55 AM
    where are the girls of ces-2013?
  • 4 Hide
    ojas , January 10, 2013 12:09 PM
    Gabe Opens Up About Valve’s Own Biometric Steam Box
    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/01/09/gabe-opens-up-about-valves-own-biometric-steam-box/

    cookoywhere are the girls of ces-2013?

    No, please no. Google it if you want, but let's keep this a tech site that cares more about tech than boobs.

    I'll treat Chris and team to virtual champagne if they avoid that "article" this year.
  • 0 Hide
    dark_wizzie , January 14, 2013 7:54 PM
    ojasGabe Opens Up About Valve’s Own Biometric Steam Boxhttp://www.rockpapershotgun.com/20 [...] steam-box/No, please no. Google it if you want, but let's keep this a tech site that cares more about tech than boobs.I'll treat Chris and team to virtual champagne if they avoid that "article" this year.

    ...But I am tempted to talk about how horrible the keynote speech was. :) 
  • 0 Hide
    blackmancer , January 23, 2013 4:49 PM
    LukeCWMI wonder if Turtle Beach was able to do something about the sound quality as well. I purchased a pair after reading rave reviews about the sound. Switching to the Turtle Beach headphones from my AKG is startling transition each and every time, since the Turtle Beach headphones sound so bad. If I listen to them for over an hour, I can begin to convince myself they sound better (until I listen to something else and am reminded again how bad they sound!).The microphone on the Turtle Beach headphones is also below par, in my opinion.


    so your AKG cost how much and the Turtle Beach?
  • 0 Hide
    blackmancer , January 23, 2013 4:52 PM
    ojasGabe Opens Up About Valve’s Own Biometric Steam Boxhttp://www.rockpapershotgun.com/20 [...] steam-box/No, please no. Google it if you want, but let's keep this a tech site that cares more about tech than boobs.I'll treat Chris and team to virtual champagne if they avoid that "article" this year.

    don't give us that rubbish, don't you see how Toms potrays every stupid holiday shopping season with half naked women holding crappy tech. complain to the authors of this site!!