Synaptics unveiled today two new device technologies aimed at significantly decreasing the space necessary for trackpads and keyboards on notebook computers. Thew new technologies -- ThinTouch and ForcePad -- cut between 40 and 50 percent off the width of current keyboard and touchpad designs, allowing more space for other components for cooling, increased battery capacity, or simply thinner notebook designs. The technology relies on capacitive sensing, and it should be appearing in notebooks some time next year.
Synaptics derived the technology in part from Pacinian, a company Synaptics acquired earlier this month. Panician has been focused for some time on capacitive keyboards, and ThinTouch is an outgrowth of that research. The capacitive keyboard is 50 percent thinner than traditional keyboards, and it has the capability to distinguish between levels of force input. As opposed to the traditional keyboard design, in which keys move vertically to touch a sensor, ThinTouch's keys move diagonally toward the typist, traveling the same physical distance, but in a smaller height. This design change produces largely the same physical feel as does a regular keyboard.
ForcePad allows a multi-finger capacitive TouchPad to read force inputs. The technology can differentiate between multiple levels of input at the same time, allowing a user to interact through the touchpad by pressing different items at different pressures.
The two features combined could serve to dramatically increase notebook battery life. Synaptics currently estimates that ForcePad and ThinTouch could save 17 and 34 percent on current battery life, respectively. The manufacturer did not reveal when the technologies will be available for consumers, but they should start shipping to PC makers some time in 2013.