Synaptics ForcePad is a pressure-sensitive, click-free touchpad for laptops

For nearly 20 years, most laptop computers have shipped with touchpads for controlling an on-screen cursor, scrolling through text, and performing other gesture-based controls on Windows, Mac, and Linux-based computers.

The touchpad has changed a few times over the past few years. Most laptops used to include distinct left and right buttons below the touch area. Recently these have largely given way clickpads — large touchpads with the buttons built right into the touch surface.

Now Synaptics, the leading maker of touchpad technology, wants to go a step further and remove clicking altogether.

Synaptics ForcePad

The company is calling its next-generation touchpad technology a ForcePad. At first glance, a ForcePad looks just like a clickpad — but there’s no clicking mechanism.

Instead, the entire large touch surface is pressure-sensitive. It can detect up to 1000 grams of pressure from up to 5 points at a time.

This lets you press anywhere on the ForcePad, use multi-finger gestures, such as 2-finger “right clicking,” or use some pretty cool new pressure-sensitive gestures.

Developers will need to write apps to take advantage of the new capabilities, but Synaptics is working with Microsoft to add support for a range of Windows 8 gestures.

Here are some of the things that you’ll be able to do with a ForcePad:

  • Gesture continuation: The harder you push, the longer an action will continue after you stop pushing.
  • Adjust scrolling speed depending on how hard you’re pressing.
  • Press-and-hold to fast forward through a video. The harder  you press, the faster the video goes.
  • Draw pictures with pressure-sensitive input to differentiate between thin and thick lines and brush-strokes.
  • Click anywhere on the screen, with no dead zones.

Ironically, while you can change the way the ForcePad reacts depending on how hard you press, one of the key selling points is that you no longer have to push down hard on the touchpad to “click.” That’s because there’s no clicking mechanism at all, which means that once ForcePads become the norm, you won’t find one laptop that has a harder-to-use touchpad than another based on a stiff clickpad.

Synaptics is also including an auto-calibration feature which should allow the ForcePad to adjust to its environment and offer consistent performance no matter what laptop it’s placed in. I’m skeptical, but intrigued about that concept.

via Gizmodo

  • Bruce

    “For nearly 20 years, most laptop computers have shipped with touchpads” I didn’t think it was that long, but I looked it up. The first Mac with a touchpad was the Powerbook 520, introduced in May 1994. Nearly 20 years indeed…

  • digi_owl

    My first thought that this could make drag and drop with a touchpad that much simpler. A light touch, simply move the mouse. More pressures and consider the mouse button pressed. Only problem will be to maintain enough pressure during the drag motion, as i have personally experienced when trying to do so using resistive touch screens.

  • NJC2

    I never understood why they had physical buttons on the touchpads at all. For as long as I’ve used a notebook (2002ish) I have never touched the physical buttons, so they’re just there taking up space. Every touchpad I’ve used you just tap the touchpad for a left click, and the software had options to set touch zones for right and middle clicks. I always set up touch zones in the top left and top right for middle and right clicks. My current netbook uses multi-touch, two finger tap for right click, three finger tap for middle click. So once again there are two buttons I’ve never used that could have been removed to either make the netbook smaller or make the touchpad bigger.

  • Hannah Martin

    I saw these reviews before ordering my Laptop and they were very useful, I looked through quite a few laptops but finally decided on the ASUS G75VW;,