Synaptics unveils Fuse, the future of touch user interface

Synaptics, which defines itself as a human interface company, has just unveiled a forward-looking concept device aimed at showing that the full potential of touch devices has yet to be achieved. Despite being widely successful over the past few years, touch user interfaces (UI) still need improvements in areas like one-handed usage or tactile feedback. Not being able to “feel” the touch screen means that you need to look at it, which can be distraction in some situations. Fuse address these issues by adding more touch sensors (that’s what Synaptics core business). For example, Synaptics thinks that adding a sensor in the back would provide an alternative to having a finger on the screen that blocks the view. That might also be a more natural way of doing things like scrolling down page with one hand.

Secondly, Synaptics has a “squeeze” sensor to the sides of the phone. That could tell the device how you are currently holding the phone and it could also be used to interact with the user interface. I’ve been told that while the sensor does not perceive many nuances of pressure, but it’s not binary either.

The Fuse uses tactile feedback, so that users don’t have to look at the screen. I’m really curious about that one because I’ve never seen any company provide feedback *before* an action has been taken by the user. Usually, tactile feedback is provided after the fact, which is not that useful.

Fuse also incorporates user interface changes, like a 3D user interface, which has been tried by many. I haven’t seen it in action, so I can’t say if that really makes one’s life better, so stay tuned.

As a cherry on the cake, Fuse is equipped with a 480×800 AMOLED display, which should be absolutely a real beauty.

To be clear, Fuse is a prototype – not a product. Its goal is to inspire the next generation of touch devices, but also to show what Synaptics and its partners can do. Among the partners, Alloy worked on the industrial design, Tat provided the UI engine, Immersion made the haptics system and Texas instrument provided the System on a chip (SoC).

If you have not heard of Synaptics before, chances are that you are using one of their touch pads on your laptop. Synaptics has a huge market share in the touch-interface business and their products can be found in pretty much electronic category where touch is involved: laptop, phones, mouse, monitors…

Fuse is based on the following hardware components:

  • Synaptics Clearpad 3000
  • Synaptics capacitive scroll trips
  • Immersion haptic feedback
  • Omap 3630 processor from Texas Instruments
  • Pressure sensors on either sides
  • 480×800 AMOLED display

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