As so much of technology moves toward capacitive inputs and thinner form factors, so too do trackpads. Case in point: Synaptics’ new ForcePad is a super-model skinny product that features four capacitive force sensors. These allow the trackpad to register a range of finger taps across 64 sensitivity levels, as well as five-finger placements, without the need for hidden switches.
With less going on internally, there’s no unnecessary physical bulk (and indeed, fewer mechanical fails as well). Obviously, this means you can’t “click” it, but there’s no need, as a decisive tap should do the trick.
Of course gestures are going to rock on this pad. And thanks to the force sensors, the gestures become very intuitive — like hitting the surface harder to swipe-to-scroll pages faster. Artists are also going to love this thing, as it allows for the pressure-sensitive strokes so often desired in image creation and design work. (If Synaptics ever decides to release an install base, the possibilities dreamed up by the community would be sick. Could you picture finetuned gaming controls based on finger pressure? Nice.)
Wonder how long it will take before this tech becomes standard in laptops. After all, the whole trend toward lighter, thinner computers is already under way. Well, before this becomes widespread, it first needs to be introduced into hardware, which should happen in the earlier part of 2013, so stay tuned for that.
That’s not to say Synaptics will rest on those laurels. The touchpad and touchscreen maker is reportedly working on ThinTouch capacitive keyboards as well. The idea here is to do away with typical scissor-action keys and make them capacitive-controlled. They’ll still bounce back up when pressed, but like the ForcePad, the ThinTouch keys will be smart enough to detect higher-pressure force on key presses. And with no scissoring action to worry about, Anandtech thinks these keyboards could come in at half the current thickness of standard keyboards.
So if you’re still schlepping around a fat, bulky laptop, hang in there. Your load could be reduced substantially in the not-too distant future.