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Preview of Synaptics's Next Generation Input Devices

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the use-the-forcepad-bill dept.

Input Devices 54

crookedvulture writes "Next year, Synaptics's ForcePad will bring pressure sensitivity to touchpads. It can track five fingers independently, each with up to a kilogram of effective force in precise 15-gram increments. This look at Synaptics' next-gen input tech goes hands-on with with ForcePad, among other new PC inputs. The ultra-slim ThinTouch keyboard, recently acquired through the purchase of Pacinian, combines secretive switches with a side order of capacitive touch. And then there's the latest in touchscreens, the ClearPad Series 4, which purportedly cuts tracking latency by 70%. That's captured on high-speed camera at 240 frames per second."

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54 comments

Kilogram is not a unit of force (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#41063049)

To preempt all the pedants: By "kilogram" they probably mean 9.8 newtons, which is the gravitational force exerted on one kilogram at sea level.

Re:Kilogram is not a unit of force (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41063413)

Well gravitational force with canceling centripetal force due to the earth's rotation.

Re:Kilogram is not a unit of force (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#41063977)

The opposing "force" caused by earth's rotation is miniscule... making a net difference of perhaps about a quarter of one percent between a point on the equator and one of the poles. In practice, you do not need to consider it except only for extremely large (almost planetary-sized) masses.

Re:Kilogram is not a unit of force (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41064039)

It amounts to roughly 0.02 m/s^2 counter acceleration.

Re:Kilogram is not a unit of force (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41070941)

There is a lot of cases where the half percent variation between poles and equator of apparent weight. This lead to the definition of the standard gravity, which was done over a hundred years ago due to the need to standardize the relationship between weight units and mass units in certain cases. Considering they defined it to about 6 significant figures, it seems a lot less than 0.5% matters for thing smaller than planetary masses.

A 10kg dumbbell in the face sure feels forceful. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41063623)

But your Honor! I wasn't applying unreasonable force when I bashed the perp's head with a 10kg dumbbell! I was merely applying unreasonable weight!

Re:A 10kg dumbbell in the face sure feels forceful (2)

l_bratch (865693) | about a year and a half ago | (#41066315)

Weight is force due to gravity. You are thinking of mass.

Re:Kilogram is not a unit of force (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year and a half ago | (#41064105)

But they're all going to be used on Earth though.

Re:Kilogram is not a unit of force (1)

Pikewake (217555) | about a year and a half ago | (#41065053)

... and everybody will drop things on the pad to operate it, and that's why gravity or mass is relevant to this discussion. Right?

Re:Kilogram is not a unit of force (2)

SharpFang (651121) | about a year and a half ago | (#41064501)

Also, the new touchpad will be very good for power saving, less than 540,000,000 ergs/hour.
Would you prefer that in horsepower?

Re:Kilogram is not a unit of force (3, Insightful)

negRo_slim (636783) | about a year and a half ago | (#41064875)

To preempt all the pedants: By "kilogram" they probably mean 9.8 newtons, which is the gravitational force exerted on one kilogram at sea level.

Sensitivity of any metric or value is kind of overshadowed by input delay, the article says it's responsive but so do the iPad commercials. And I have yet to find any kind of touch input that is even close to comparable to using a graphics tablet. Of course slow response is fine for general work UI nav, but we all know how cool it would be to "paint" or whatever with your fingers but this isn't viable with the current response times we are seeing in touch devices. Maybe this one is truly responsive and it certainly could be as it's a track pad. I'd just like to have some solid metrics on it before getting excited.

Re:Kilogram is not a unit of force (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41065925)

By "kilogram" they obviously mean "kilogram force".

Click harder (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41063127)

So "click harder" will be a valid solution, now, so that the computer can finally understand urgency. Great!

nice(1) by touch (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#41063267)

So "click harder" will be a valid solution, now, so that the computer can finally understand urgency.

How long until someone makes a window manager that allows pressure to control the priority of a window's process?

Re:nice(1) by touch (4, Funny)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about a year and a half ago | (#41063357)

So "click harder" will be a valid solution, now, so that the computer can finally understand urgency.

How long until someone makes a window manager that allows pressure to control the priority of a window's process?

That sounds terrible. Call the GNOME developers!

Re:nice(1) by touch (1)

greg1104 (461138) | about a year and a half ago | (#41064017)

Even though it's terrible to match their latest design preferences, If one of the users suggests that feature the GNOME developers will never add it.

Re:great gnome idea! (2)

nullchar (446050) | about a year and a half ago | (#41064737)

Instead of possible recovery strategies [slashdot.org] we should have pounced on your idea 2 years ago!

Say a small group of slashdotters sit down and dream up how we want gnome3 to be and listed those features somewhere private. Then, we try to come up with the opposite of those features, and submit them like crazy to the gnome design community [gnome.org].

Thus, all of the "features" and "changes" we asked for would not get implemented, leaving at least some of the stuff we wanted to be "dreamed up" by the gnome designers, thinking they know what's best for us like always.

Re:great gnome idea! (1)

greg1104 (461138) | about a year and a half ago | (#41065189)

Say a small group of slashdotters sit down and dream up how we want gnome3 to be and listed those features somewhere private. Then, we try to come up with the opposite of those featuDX

But someone have that, the roadmap and goals for GNOME3; this work is accomplished.I think all we really need to do is tell the GNOME developers "job well done, keep doing exactly what you're done already" and that will be enough to redirect the entire project's goals. They won't stand for that.

Re:great gnome idea! (1)

nullchar (446050) | about a year and a half ago | (#41066679)

I think all we really need to do is tell the GNOME developers "job well done, keep doing exactly what you're done already" and that will be enough to redirect the entire project's goals. They won't stand for that.

That may work, but if my 2 year old toddler is any indication, reverse psychology only goes so far. Eventually they will accept the praise as legitimate instead of always trying to refute you.

Who need synaptic? (4, Funny)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year and a half ago | (#41063165)

... isn't apt-get good enough?

If you already know the package's name (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#41063291)

apt-get is good if you already know the name of the package that adds support for a given laptop computer model's pressure-sensitive trackpad, such as if you're following a tutorial. If you're trying to search for a package, on the other hand, you need an interface that makes search easier.

Re:If you already know the package's name (2)

LordLucless (582312) | about a year and a half ago | (#41063919)

If you're trying to search for a package, on the other hand, you need an interface that makes search easier.

Like apt-cache search ?

Re:If you already know the package's name (1)

cc1984_ (1096355) | about a year and a half ago | (#41065543)

I prefer aptitude search; apt-cache doesn't tell you if the package is installed. A small difference, but enough to have been the deciding factor for me.

Discoverability (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#41066943)

Like apt-cache search ?

And how many people who know about apt-get are aware that apt-cache search exists? The advantage of a GUI is that it makes more things discoverable.

Re:Who need synaptic? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41063297)

aptitude is better.

Re:Who need synaptic? (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year and a half ago | (#41065769)

What happened to aptitude, anyway? I mean, it still exists, but all tutorials have reverted back to mention apt-get and aptitude isn't even installed by default. Or does this apply only for Ubuntu?

Re:Who need synaptic? (2)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year and a half ago | (#41063427)

(I forgot to mark the above with a (grin). If you are taking it seriously, please receive my apologies along with the obligatory whoosh!)

Touch sensitive space bar? (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#41063475)

The article mentions a touch sensitive space bar:

In addition to smarter touchpad management, the capacitive sensors can be used for other functions. A concept video suggested that swiping one's fingers across the spacebar could be part of an auto-complete typing scheme. Auto-complete seems entirely unnecessary for a proper keyboard, unless you're a hopeless hunt-and-peck type, but the spacebar does seem ripe for thumb flicks or pinch gestures. I'd love to be able to move the cursor left and right by sliding my thumbs across the spacebar, for example. Switching between applications by waving one's hand left and right over the keyboard would be pretty cool, too.

Does anyone really think that would work well? I already disable the touchpad on my touchpoint (i.e. little red eraser tipped joystick) keyboard since stray touches on the touchpad cause phantom cursor movements, would a "smart" spacebar be useful?

Re:Touch sensitive space bar? (4, Funny)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year and a half ago | (#41063525)

I find not touching the touch pad when I don't want the cursor move a good solution.

Re:Touch sensitive space bar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41064163)

It kinda sounds like a good idea to me at first for switching apps/desktops/pages, but then I realized that ctrl-tab or pagedown is probably best. They probably use less [of my] energy to press too.

also you'd totally get friction burns on your thumbs.

Re:Touch sensitive space bar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41064771)

Would be awesome in games for the directional keys (eg A,W,S,D)
Light tap, like normal, moves in that direction, a hard tap dodges in that direction. Awesome.

Re:Touch sensitive space bar? (1)

br_whale (2693121) | about a year and a half ago | (#41074891)

I agree. My engine uses doubletapping for dodging, but hard pressing would be a lot more intuitive and faster for the player and easier to code.

Re:Touch sensitive space bar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41065465)

No, it's a stupid idea, the idiots at Synaptics are just trying to justify their jobs, it's seriously pathetic, watching these 'user interface designers', etc. trying to come up with more and more STUPID ways of entering data into our computers, when the ways we already have work perfectly well (keyboard and mouse).

"I'd love to be able to move the cursor left and right by sliding my thumbs across the spacebar,"
"Switching between applications by waving one's hand left and right over the keyboard would be pretty cool, too."
Only if you're a complete moron who is fascinated by 'shiny things'.

Oh, wait...

You idiot.

Stress Injuries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41063925)

So from what I'm reading, there's no travel at all? Makes me wonder about injuries from "clicking" with no tactile feedback. The article mentions enabling an audible cue, but I don't know if it's quite the same as *feeling* a pad click. Unless the expectation is to be using tap-to-click instead, which I personally don't like. I tend to keep a fairly light touch on my track pads and wind up accidentally clicking all over the place if I don't disable it.

Re:Stress Injuries? (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#41063991)

I have a Mac with one of those touch sensitve mice. I know your pain.

But you get used to it... you adapt, and change the way you do stuff.

still the fastest guns in the west (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year and a half ago | (#41064141)

Sorry but nothing will make me use a touchpad (or a touchscreen for that matter). They can coat it with leprechaun dust and ground up unicorn horns and rub it with Cheetah blood and I'll still beat it 3:1 on speed and practically limitlessness on accuracy with a mouse. If you don't believe me, run a high speed shooting gallery app. I think my record is 9 per second with a mouse. With a touchpad, maybe 1 every 5 seconds. It does have to pop up a target underneath the cursor at some point, lol.

Re:still the fastest guns in the west (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41064683)

Well, duh. The touchpad is still useful for when you don't need a mouse enough to be worth carrying it.

Re:still the fastest guns in the west (1)

amorsen (7485) | about a year and a half ago | (#41065047)

It takes too long to move the hand off the keyboard to use the mouse. What you gain in precision is only worth it if you are doing multiple clicks in a row without using the keyboard in between.

Re:still the fastest guns in the west (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41065721)

This is why the Model M13 with Trackpoint is the truest of the true keyboards. Not only does it possess the innate superiority of its ultra-clicky brethren, it has a trackpoint that you can access without moving your hands from home row, just by moving your right index finger a centimeter or two from its resting position on 'j'...

Re:still the fastest guns in the west (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#41067105)

I own two of them, but the mouse buttons on one are completely nonworking, and the mouse buttons on the other are so flaky I barely even try to use them anymore. The thing is, the buttons NEVER really worked well... they just kind of went from "annoyingly flaky" to "barely-working, or not working at all."

Can anybody actually fix them in a way that not only fixes my problem, but hopefully fixes it in a way that improves upon the original buttons? I love the keyboards (even though most of my coworkers hate the one I have at the office), but I really wish I could get the buttons fixed.

That said, I really wish somebody would make a keyboard like the M13 with Trackpoint, but give it a SECOND Trackpoint located directly below the spacebar, and configure it so that one can be used for pointer movement, and one can be used for scrolling & panning. Fujitsu got the location right with THEIR pointer, but their mechanism sucks. IBM got the mechanism right, but "GHB" is a poor location for fine-manipulation (your thumb is stronger, but has less range of motion... precisely the use case ideal for pointer sticks). I've seen a few Sony netbooks over the years that put the stick below the spacebar, but I can count them on one hand. I wish more companies would try putting sticks there (or hedging their bets and putting two sticks in place, so users can pick one for mouse and one for scrolling).

Re:still the fastest guns in the west (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#41065335)

And I find a graphics tablet to be faster and more accurate than a mouse. What's your point? Touchpads and touchscreens were nevert meant to usurp mice. They're meant to be a more convenient alternative for certain situations.

Re:still the fastest guns in the west (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#41068157)

"They can coat it with leprechaun dust and ground up unicorn horns and rub it with Cheetah blood and I'll still beat it 3:1 on speed and practically limitlessness on accuracy with a mouse. "

You can get special cleaning spray and cloths to clean that stuff off your touchscreen.
(Well I don't know that they have tried it with that combination of ingredients but it cant be much worse that the other gunk that accumulates on a tablet screen

More features for cheap OEMs to ignore (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41064143)

What's the point? Most OEMs cheap out on licensing the full Synaptic feature set anyway, so you don't get full multi-touch support on that Dell, even though the hardware supports it.

Oversensitive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41065649)

"Switching between applications by waving one's hand left and right over the keyboard would be pretty cool, too."

My Dell's Synaptics pad does this...my palm goes anywhere near that pad, and it registers a mouse click. Drives me nuts trying to get the sensitivity adjusted right.

Music on the go (1)

bstrobl (1805978) | about a year and a half ago | (#41066041)

This would be great to use with a DAW when nothing else is at hand, producing music without dynamics can be a real pain.

Touchpads have been going BACKWARDS (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#41067329)

~15 years ago (circa 1996 or so), touchpads emulated the kinetics of thumb-manipulated trackballs, and I didn't mind them too badly. Then, sometime around 1999, all the manufacturers started to de-tune their virtual kinetics to accommodate users who used their index fingers. The difference isn't subtle. Your thumb's range of motion is limited, and the first-gen touchpads used the same algorithms as trackballs to interpret a motion that can loosely be described as "kind of towards the left, somewhat downward" as "move the pointer directly left" (and vice-versa).

Once in a blue moon, I'll trip over a modern touchpad that *almost* gets it right, but manufacturers view them as commodities, so even when I find one in real life that doesn't suck, there's no guarantee that the identical laptop ordered from Newegg will have the same one.

I have a hunch that the touchpads in laptops can do more than the generic (or official) drivers offer, but low-level documentation for them is nonexistent (in the public space, at least). I still spend an occasional afternoon looking at Linux source hoping that someone has leaked a driver that gives a determined driver the ability to tweak it in nonstandard ways.

Insofar as "multitouch" goes, the idea is actually nothing new. Users had the idea 10+ years ago. The whole problem was with the touchpad firmware itself, which reported only a single x,y location (or a single velocity vector). All you need to implement "pinch type" multitouch is a touchpad that reports raw events, and does it quickly enough to preserve the trigger order. If I see "finger down at (x,y)", then "finger down at (a or u, b or w)", it doesn't take a rocket scientist to put 2 and 2 together and figure out that the values closest to x,y probably are one point, and the remaining two values are another. From that point, it's just a matter of tracking them quickly enough to ensure that the jump from sample to sample doesn't exceed the difference between the two (so you can keep track of which value is which over time).

Also, multitouch touchpads that support 3+ fingers aren't necessarily able to support completely arbitrary touches, or touches that are truly simultaneous. For example, supporting a "3 fingers swiped vertically" gesture is one thing... supporting "3 fingers moving with completely independent motion along paths that cross" is another mater entirely. A "3 fingers to scroll" gesture would be implementable even with old touchpads with simple matrices, as long as they report ALL contact points instead of just the first or most dominant pair. You'd just have to notice that there are 3 different x values that differ by approximately N units, and notice that the 3 x values all have y values that are similar & changing at a similar rate.

Trendy Replica Handbags (1)

moyanqin (2712681) | about a year and a half ago | (#41089839)

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