Synaptics Forcepad Touchpad Tech Chosen For User Interface Contest, ThinTouch Keyboard Technology For Ultrabooks Unveiled

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Synaptics and get some hands-on time with an array of already-available and upcoming input technologies. The big announcement coming from Synaptics today is that the company’s ForcePad has been selected for the User Interface Software & Technology (UIST) Student Innovation Contest, which will take place in October in Cambridge, Massachusetts. UIST is a forum for innovations in the software and technology of human-computer interfaces, which is sponsored by ACM's (Association for Computing Machinery) special interest groups on computer-human interaction (SIGCHI) and computer graphics (SIGGRAPH). For the past three years, Microsoft hardware had been selected to showcase the innovations presented at the event, but Synaptics scored the position this year with the upcoming ForcePad.

Synaptics ThinTouch Technology
After using the ForcePad for just a few minutes, we immediately understood why Synaptics is so excited about the device. Synaptics has been a major player in touch-pads and touch-screens for years, and with the proliferation of touch interfaces, the company wants to move into more and more devices and form factors. The company’s ThinTouch technologies are poise to allow for even thinner devices. And they even have innovative capacitive keyboard technology in the works that’s significantly thinner than many of today’s solutions, while still offering a solid feel with good key travel.

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The ForcePad will be arriving sooner than Synpatics’ keyboard technology, however, and in the right hands (no pun intended), it could be a game changer. The ForcePad’s main appeal is that it adds a third dimension to touchpads—force. Whereas traditional touchpads can only track movement and register taps, ForcePads can also capture pressure or forces being applied to the pad. And it can do so for up to five fingers. There is no need for moving parts on the ForcePad because the force data captured by the device can be used to register clicks, control scroll bars, volume sliders, or any one of a myriad of other things.

Synaptics ForcePad Animation
Another advantage of the ForcePad is that the user experience is consistent across the device’s entire surface. Because there are no physical switches or levers, which usually require different pressures to actuate depending on their location, users won’t have to press with different amounts of force to trigger an action. The device works by leveraging data captured by the capacitive field of the device and four ultra-sensitive pressure sensors in each corner. Using proprietary algorithms to combine the data from both the capacitive field and the pressure sensors, Synaptics is able to determine positions, pressure, direction, and velocity, etc. of up to five fingers.

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We’ll have more information on the ForcePad and Synpatics other input technologies in the future. For now, we’ve got a few videos which show the technologies in action, along with the full press release regarding the UIST win...

Synaptics ForcePad Technology Chosen for Prestigious UIST Contest

Next-Generation ForcePad Touch Solution Delivers Industry-Changing Performance

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Aug. 20, 2012 – Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA), a leading developer of human interface solutions for mobile computing, communications and entertainment devices, today confirmed that Synaptics ForcePad, the next generation of TouchPad touch solutions, has been chosen as the hardware technology for the fourth annual User Interface Software & Technology (UIST) Student Innovation Contest (SIC). Originally released to UIST under the codename “Jedeye,” Synaptics’ ForcePad solution joins three-time hardware supplier Microsoft in supporting the contest.

As a multi-finger, capacitive TouchPad with variable force detection and a large “modern touch pad” gesture area, ForcePad promises to redefine the touch interaction experience for notebook and desktop PC users. Ideal for the rapidly growing ultrabook trend, it is up to 40 percent thinner than today’s ClickPads, enabling thinner and lighter ultrabooks. ForcePad is ideal for the fast and fluid Windows 8 touch experience because it adds an exciting new dimension of control to the user’s interaction.

Synaptics ForcePad In Action
The acclaimed UIST conference covers a variety of topics including graphical and web user interfaces, tangible and ubiquitous computing, virtual and augmented reality and multimedia supported by new input and output devices. Teams of one to four students are given hardware kits for six weeks to develop new implementations for the next-generation TouchPad. With final presentations planned during the UIST Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts from October 7-10, contestants are vying for cash awards in the “Most Creative”, “Most Useful”, and “People’s Choice” categories.

"We're delighted to be working with Synaptics, an industry leader in human interface technology," said Rob Miller, general chair of the ACM UIST 2012 conference and professor of computer science at MIT. "Synaptics has given generous support to this year's UIST Student Innovation Contest, including the use of its technology. Synaptics understands that today's students will invent tomorrow's great ideas."

“ForcePad is the most significant development in touch technology since Synaptics invented the first TouchPad in 1995. We believe ForcePad delivers the world’s best touch experience, opening up a new array of exciting usage models,” said Godfrey Cheng, vice president of marketing for Synaptics PC Division. “UIST is an exemplary organization dedicated to expanding human interaction models, which makes them a perfect partner to advance new technologies based on ForcePad.”

ForcePad adds a new dimension of control utilizing capacitive image sensing technology that detects the pressure of five fingers with up to 1,000 grams of dynamic range in force sensitivity. The ability to detect varying amounts of pressure per finger enables new usage paradigms in virtually every software genre, making ForcePad a great tool for the UIST Student Innovation Contest.

ForcePad features a universal auto-calibration capability for adjusting to varying notebook designs with variable flex tolerances. There are no mechanical hinges or tactile button switches. It can maintain consistent performance through the notebook product life, as well as a consistent experience across different OEM chassis makes and models.

Details for the UIST SIC Contest:
  • Contest and conference in Cambridge, Mass.
  • Contest registration deadline: Aug. 24
  • Registration:
  • UIST conference registration deadline: Aug. 26
  • Registration:
  • Contest hardware shipped: Aug. 27
  • Presentation of demos and judging at conference: Oct. 8
  • Winners announced at conference: Oct. 9
  • Email:
  • Facebook:
  • Twitter: @uistcontest

To learn more about ForcePad, please visit

For up-to-the-minute Synaptics news, follow @SynaCorp on Twitter. For more information on Synaptics’ products and solutions, please visit the Synaptics website.