Synaptics was showing SemiAccurate three new demos at Computex called Tactus, Orzo, and Vermicelli. Each one is a potentially useful advance in UIs and haptics but some are closer than others to production.
The first one is visually the most interesting and that is Tactus, the so called inflatable screen technology. Tactus uses micro-pumps that use similar technology to artificial muscles to pump optically matched oil around. This oil goes through microgrooves in a polymer layer on top of the screen to inflate bumps over the keys.
Lumpy touch screens on command
While you can make the bumps any size and shape you want, they are fixed in position and size so you can’t do some things you might expect to be possible. Yet. That said a touchscreen with a bumpy keyboard is far superior to a flat tactile feedback free slab of glass and metal. For me Tactus has uses but not for the general case yet. Then again it is still early in development so lets see what happens when the tech gets closer to production.
Next up is Orzo, a clever re-use of a standard touchpad with new firmware to detect large objects at a distance. Touchpads can detect touches on them quite well and even see some really nearby objects with tolerable accuracy. What Orzo does is detect large objects at long distances, say a hand at about 10cm or even smaller objects at 3-5cm.
As you might expect it will only give back X/Y coördinates, no Z be it height or pressure. Even in gross form like this, such detection can be very useful for things like waking up, shutting down, and even disabling the pad while typing. Since it is essentially a firmware upgrade, the price is right and could have a killer app or two lurking in the wings.
Vermicelli is the last one and it is an advance on what Synaptics has shown before, touch functionality on keyboard keys. In this case the demo was specifically about the space bar, turning it into a mini-touchpad for swipes and scrolling. Since no sane PC OS uses gestures like that, scrolling seems to be the key, pun intended, usage. Depending on actual implementation, a scroll bar on the keyboard could be a very good thing.
One last non-named tech that ties into this is a new gesture for space constrained touchpads like, oh say a spacebar. Synaptics put a new gesture in their firmware, a three finger tap for button clicks. If you are working on your space-touch-bar thingy, hopefully on a keyboard with more feel than pasta, you can use both mouse buttons on the keyboard. It is useful but not a killer app by any means but it could be quite handy. That said all of these three point something new technologies fall into the same category. For now.S|A
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