Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Input Devices Hardware

Synaptics Working On Advanced Touchscreen For Phones 62

angry tapir writes "Touch specialist Synaptics is working on technologies that will allow touchscreens to mimic the feel of a physical keypad, in order to make smartphones easier to use, according to company technology strategist Andrew Hsu. The goal is to build a touchscreen with the tactile feedback of a keypad. Users should be able run their fingers over virtual keys and get the same sensation as a mechanical keypad gives, allowing them to feel where the buttons are, and then activate them by pushing down a little bit harder, according to Hsu."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Synaptics Working On Advanced Touchscreen For Phones

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... improve their shitty trackpads first.

    • People want to use trackpads?

      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

        They are better than the clit-mouse that is the usual alternative on laptops.

        • That's your opinion. I love the eraserhead, far better than any touchpad.

          • by Superken7 ( 893292 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @07:11PM (#37404714) Journal

            Agreed. I use a MBP now, but my Thinkpad before it had a clit mouse and it was AWESOME. People don't like them because they have a steep learning curve.
            They are also more limited as far as gestures go, but for scrolling and basic stuff its sufficient. Not having to move your palms when switching from typing to mouse is just EPIC WIN.
            Most folks don't realize thats a big deal because they haven't thoroughly tried both versions. I have, and I can assure you I really miss it. Better ergonomics FTW.

            • I love them too... the clit mouse is underused. I actually find that a good trackball or a clit mouse much more responsive and agile than a trackpad. The only "touch/trackpads" I like are 1:1 screen or graphics tablet based.

              • I kind of like the touchpad on the last couple years of macs... larger touch area... though no option for middle click (three finger tap?) makes that part a little unfun. I actually used to really like the nub. I even bought a unicomp keyboard with one... buckling spring + trackpoint on a desktop keyboard, epic win. I still prefer an actual mouse though. But apple trackpad then close third trackpoint.. then everything else.
          • Only after you develop a giant callous on your finger tip to keep the pain away.

            • by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @07:28PM (#37404878)

              IBM (now Lenovo) has the right pointer-stick mechanism, but the wrong location. The stick SHOULD go directly below the spacebar, aligned by a line perpendicular to the spacebar that would run through the center of the "B" key. Fujitsu got the right location, but patented a crap pointer-stick mechanism. Unfortunately, Fujitsu patented the stick's LOCATION too, so nobody besides Sony (with a sufficiently-large patent portfolio to bully Fujitsu into submission) has ever dared to put the stick there.

              Don't believe me that it's the ideal location? Try this experiment: hold your hands so the thumb is over the Trackpoint the same way it would be if it were centered below the spacebar and try moving it. Ahhhh. Much nicer, isn't it? Your thumb is a lot stronger, so you can give the stick a good hard shove to hurl the pointer to the other side of the screen quickly instead of exerting your index finger in a hyperextended position.

              Personally, I think keyboards should have TWO Trackpoint-style pointer sticks: one in the "GHB" triangle, and one centered below the spacebar, with 4 buttons flanking the lower stick (2 per side, placed so whichever thumb ISN'T on the stick can easily press one or the other, keeping in mind the ~45-degree axis of comfortable motion for the thumb. Then, make them all software-configurable, so you can assign the 4 buttons to be "left", "right", and/or some other function as you desire, and either use both pointer sticks as mice, or reassign one to be for scrolling/panning. I'd personally use the "GHB" one as a faux scrollwheel ;-)

              • You should develop keyboard for Logitec, I am delighted by my G11 but if it had a the configuration you describe, I would only have use the mouse in fps and rpg. I could use shortcut for almost everything as I know most of them but Diablo II made me into a compulsive clicker so I need my daily allowance of senseless clicking. And I don't have that much time for rps or fpg anymore.

              • sounds like a pain to actually click+drag, or right-click+drag with that location though.
              • That's your opinion from the thumb-texting IM generation. An older geezer, like me, prefers having the Trackpoint up by the GBH keys so the I can use my index finger. I don't like using my shorter, big fat thumbs on a touch screen to type or gesture. I'm sure that's why it's there since it was created before you young-ans came around and started your awkward thumb typing on awkward tiny keyboards that shouldn't have been organized in a qwerty format.

                I definitely prefer that over the touchpad whenever I h

                • LOL. Actually, I'm a bit of a geezer too (hint: I was a freshman in college the night I went to Incredible Universe at midnight to buy my copy of WIndows 95). One of my favorite laptops was the Zeos Meridian, which just so happened to have an IBM-style pointer stick in the location I'm talking about (and unfortunately, was utterly out of my price range at the time) -- []

          • Agreed, I love titty-mice, but I get frustrated that it never takes too long before they don't return to center properly and will drift the pointer when you let go of it. There is no quick hotkey to recalibrate the center so you have to restart to get it fixed, and it might last a few minutes or all day before failing again. Although I love the titty-mouse, sadly they always wear out quickly so I carry a bluetooth mouse.
        • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

          Do you mean navigation nipple?

        • The clitmouse is superior for use in a moving vehicle, while the glidepad is better (IMO) for use every other time. For a device which is in a form factor designed to be used on the go, it is logical to have both devices. Seriously though, get your hands on a laptop with both, get someone to drive you on a seriously bumpy road, and see which you like better.

          Of course, that's a fairly niche application, but it still means it's a useful interface for some situations. It's a lot easier to hold your hand on a d

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The problem with the clit mouse is that I can never find it :(

        • With touch pads I always have the problem that while typing some document or so I accidentally touch it and then the cursor jumps to another part of the document. Very irritating. So I always switch off the click detection, so must use the buttons for that. It does lower the usability of the touch pad, especially the drag-and-drop part.

          I've also used this clit mouse thing and actually it takes a while to get used to but after that it works better for me than the touch pad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nichotin ( 794369 )
      Their "Mac-ish" trackpads are really horrible. They sort of look like those on Apple laptops, but do not work even half as good. One big problem is that the mouse pointer will move unevenly if you have two fingers on it (if you prefer to click with your thumb for instance). Try having your index finger and your thumb on it, and then move the thumb, and you will see the pointer moving. Later drivers have made the issue less bad, but the pointer will still hove horizontally. Try that with a Mac pad and the po
      • And also, why the hell do they still insist on having left and right button on the left and right side of the trackpad? It is horrible and erases the border between the two, unless the laptop manufacturer has made a dent in the surface or something. I must say I prefer the Apple solution to this - clicking with two fingers equals right click.

        I'm pretty sure this is a driver issue, because on Linux I've been using two finger right-click and three finger middle-click for ages. (Since 2007 at least.) The Linux Synaptics drivers also have the zones option, but I never turn this on.

    • I hate all of these. It's WORSE when they add "gestures" or other crap. The additional manager they add on the mouse controlpanel for Windows machines is a "value-subtracted" offering.

      On every machine but Apple, my FIRST configuration change is to DISABLE the Synaptics pad COMPLETELY. (Whoops! I double clicked, again!).

      I use the old, Thinkpad trackpoint thingie. Or I go bluetooth.

      The newest pads can't be disabled on Linux - with no driver, they are PS/2 emulation only! I had to open the chassis and pu

      • Just tell Xorg not to use the track pad. No need to prevent it from being physically detected at all.
        Although udev could probably do that as well.

        • I think you're right. After the xorg.conf file became a useless appendix in Ubuntu-derivatives, I haven't looked deeper into the guts.

          This still doesn't apologise for Synaptics suckage. ;-)

        • I remember why X is not the route. The pad and trackpoint are ONE DEVICE! ARGH! I found that out when unloading modules and whatching /proc.

          We'll see if udev gets a finer grained control.

  • by syntap ( 242090 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @07:01PM (#37404642)

    ... years ago with the Blackberry Storm, and yet the vast majority of us are still using flat, unfeeling touchscreens and Research In Motion is struggling to stay relevant in the mobile device business.

    I'm not sure consumers really care about how the screen feels, and they may even be distracted by such a change.

    • And it's the reason I won't switch to an iPhone. With the Blackberry Storm, RIM simply put a microswitch behind the keyboard and called it tactile feedback. The fact that they did that leads me to believe that either they didn't understand the basic mechanics of what they were trying to accomplish or that it was some marketing genius who came up with the idea to try to steal some mindshare away from the iPhone, even though there was no realistic way to make it happen at the time.

      What I would like is somethi

    • The Storm? Didn't that make the whole front of the phone one big button? You got the click of pressing a key, but not any more feel between keys than any other touch screen phone. Clicking that phone made me feel like Indiana Jones stepping on a trap...if I let up, do I get poison darts shot at me?

    • by maxume ( 22995 )

      The quality of the implementation matters quite a lot.

      In other words, if it sucks, people won't like it, if it is nice, people may well like it.

    • by nilbog ( 732352 )

      First of all the storm was a pile of steaming turd, second of all the tech they used is not even close to what this article is talking about. This is saying you'd be able to feel the buttons before you press them.

  • Everyone just switch to swype already and forget about needing to "feel" the keys on your phone.

    I could see this being useful on a tablet, but a phone keyboard is much too small to make regular typing an efficient way to type anyways.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The problem with Swype and man other touch screen input methods is that you have to look at the phone.

      In fact, there are input methods that are efficient and don't require looking at the phone, like Graffiti. Unfortunately, there are no good implementations for modern phones, and it works better with a pen.

      • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

        Graffiti may have allowed you to not look at a phone, but it was hardly efficient- you'd be hard pressed to get 10 wpm on it. You can get 50 on something like Swype. It also tired your hands out as fast as pen and paper did. I'd use a 9 pad keyboard before handwriting recognition.

        • Please. There's no way in *hell* you could type arbitrary text that's not conversational English at 50wpm using Swype, if only because one out of every 20-40 words would end up getting mango into some other word by its prediction album, and everything you wrote would make you look like the 21st century reincarnation of []

          I personally can do about 30-40wpm with Graffiti when I'm really into it and writing at full speed. It does admittedly take more motion t

          • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

            The world record for Swype is 56 wpm. I'm a clutz and I manage over 30. The typos are taken care of by using it's editing abilities (single tap to see alternate words, double tap to see alternates and hilight (and then you can just re-swipe).

            Grafiti, I've never seen anyone get over 15. It's the same reason we don't use pen an paper- it's slow, tires out the hand, and you still have to look at the damn screen. On top of that you have to learn a whole new language. It's junk. I used to have a Palm, I u

          • Im pretty sure on a standard blackberry I could keep up, without looking, with someone using pen and paper (also without looking).

      • > Unfortunately, there are no good implementations for modern phones

        Not quite true. Access-nee-Palm (whatever name they go under now) semi-officially sells Graffiti for Android. There's a free ad-supported version that embeds ads in the graffiti area, and a $2.99 version without them. It's worth every penny. It's the ONLY Graffiti-1 implementation I know of for Android that properly recognizes all the alternate strokes hardcore PalmOS users have burned into our motor memory forever, like backwards-v for

    • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

      I found swype to cause epic fails on certain words. Though it may have been quicker, and it was fun to use, using it accurately was a big chore in the end. And using it sloppily left messages intelligible, because very differently spelled words would have similar swypes. Also 'it' and 'out' errors were very frequent.

      • by tycoex ( 1832784 )

        Stuff like "it" and "out" can be annoying, but when you have been using Swype for awhile you learn little tricks like slightly dipping below or above the "u" to avoid an incorrect guess.

        It also got a lot more usable (imo) after the last update. Before it had a jump cursor that completely destroyed any chances of salvaging a partially correct word. The most recent update fixed this which makes it a lot easier to correct the second half of a word if swype guessed the first half correctly.

        It's still not perfec

  • by nbetcher ( 973062 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {rehctebn}> on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @07:15PM (#37404758)
    ... Slider phones! ZOMG, a hardware keyboard on a PHONE?!
    • That works well, until you consider that adding a slider to a phone makes it, what, 50% thicker than it needs to be otherwise? Not to mention additional possibilities for mechanical breakage. I mean, yes, it's nice and it works, but there is a reason most new smartphones don't go that route. Better touchscreen keyboards would be very nice, but I doubt this will help all that much. Simple physical size is the greatest problem, and there isn't much they can do to get rid of that, aside from even bigger and bu

      • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

        I don't think thicker is necessarily a bad thing. I'd pay a lot more for a phone that's twice as thick if they promise to use all the extra room for more juice in the battery.

    • by imroy ( 755 )

      I love my Milestone (essentially a "Droid"), but I have mixed feelings about the keyboard. Apart from only having four rows and thus requiring combinations a little too often, the main problem is Android itself. From what I understand, Android treats a screen rotation as another screen size, so the app redraws the screen in the new size. But if you have a "dialog box" up, that is lost. And it doesn't take a genius to realise that a dialog box is something you'll often be entering text into.

      So what happens i

  • On devices I need physical keyboard sensation, I have a physical keyboard. On devices with touchscreens, I have workflows that eliminate the need to type. And ideally, I want to drive them all from my brain implant. So, for me, this is a waste of precious R&D resources in the wrong direction.
  • by danomac ( 1032160 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @07:19PM (#37404792)

    I kind of wonder how it'll work when you rotate the phone, or is it going to have keyboards in 3 places on the phone?

    I think that would actually make the problem worse.

    Article says something about some type of actuator, which probably could solve this problem, but how much thickness is this going to add to the screen? Touch screens aren't real physical keyboards, and never will be. If anything this tech that they're researching could cause more problems than it solves.

    Personally, for me, having the phone vibrate when you press a key is enough. At least you know when you've pressed it. One of the things I hated about my old iPhone was its lack of feedback.

    • To me, the most useful-sounding application of this tech would be the ability to differentiate between click and hover. I only recently started using a multitouch smartphone (HTC Desire), and the thing I miss the most is the ability to hover over a widget to get the tool-tip popup to tell me what it's for.

  • You know, I never look at my keyboard. Every time I put my hands on it I have to hunt for the raised bumps on F and J in the home row. This tactile feedback is useful and necessary but imprecise, because all the other keys are tactilely identical. Translating both hands up/down/left/right feels identical, except for the F and J bumps. Why haven't we started making (physical) keyboards with braille on every key? I imagine the tactile feedback, even for sighted people, would allow for much faster input a

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is that really needed? Yeah, nostalgic people of the mechanical keyboard are bitching about touch screen now, but every demonstrations I've seen seems to show that there is no real drawback to it. Fastest texter in competitions now use the swipe/type keyboards, that TV show where the guy was texting in the passenger seat of a car going around a race track, he had better result with an iPhone then a Berry, etc.

    Waste of resources...

  • by sonamchauhan ( 587356 ) <sonamc@gmail.3.14159com minus pi> on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @10:08PM (#37405834) Journal

    Ferrofluid touch interface
    Touch interface that uses Ferrofluids to provides tactile feedback []

    Air-Driven Touch Interface
    Using a mesh of air valves to provide a tactile interface []

    Liquid Interfaces - A Malleable, Transient, Direct-Touch Interface []

  • How many people who should be making advancements that, you know, actually arent stupid? I mean these sorta things arent easy, and theyre useful, but that doesnt mean they aren't stupid and pointless and temptng educated scientists away from more important matters to the replication of consumer goods. ...Actually, I had more to say, but I got this sinking feeling in my stomach after writing that. I suddenly became very depressed.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll