Synaptics Demos ThinTouch Capacitive Keyboard For Ultrabooks

By Alexandra Burlacu email: | Jan 13, 2013 03:13 PM EST

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Synaptics may be best known for making touchpad software and hardware, but the company unveiled new technology at this year's International CES - the ThinTouch Keyboard.

The company said several months ago that it was working on a ThinTouch keyboard product, and the 2013 CES tech fest was the perfect venue to show off the new toy. The ThinTouch keyboard is designed for ultrabooks and other lightweight laptops, and sports an attractive, slim profile - after all, it couldn't ruin the tech Feng shui now, could it?

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Synaptics' ThinTouch concept sports keys that are thinner than those of a typical laptop, but they are connected to adjustable magnets to offer the same amount of travel. Capacitive touch technology means the keys can detect different states, including when the user is touching, tapping, or hovering over the keyboard.

The keyboard demoed at CES 2013 was paired with an older Lenovo laptop, but the model, though full-size, is far from final. Even though the keyboard will be able to detect gestures such as hovering over buttons, for now such features are not functional. As it gets closer to the final version, however, the keyboard will add more functionality, including automatically disabling the touchpad when it senses the user's fingers are typing. The keys will also be pressure sensitive, which means they will respond differently depending on how hard the user presses the buttons.

On the other hand, while the prototype Synaptics shown off at CES 2013 looks and feels decent, it doesn't feel quite as good as a standard keyboard - at least not yet. The company is still working on the ins and outs of the gadget, and has plenty to fine-tune before the final version of the ThinTouch keyboard is ready for a consumer market debut.

The company said it is currently working with several Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to incorporate the technology in future laptops. Synaptics did not offer a precise date for when the product will be ready for launch, but new systems with ThinTouch could become available in the second half of 2013. Synaptics has built a good reputation for itself as a touchpad software and hardware maker, so it should be interesting to see how it fares with keyboards.

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