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You can think of the Synaptics ForcePad as a highly sensitive pressure plate for Ultrabooks and other thin and light devices. Rather than rely on mouse clicks like the majority of standard trackpads, the ForcePad detects up to 1000 grams of pressure from all five fingers and responds accordingly. This type of force detection technology has benefits that go beneath the surface.
According to Synaptics, ForcePads are up to 40 percent thinner than traditional trackpads. Why does that matter? Well, they're cheaper to produce, for one. But more importantly, a reduction in thickness leaves more room for larger Ultrabook batteries underneath, or OEMs could simply build a thinner chassis.
There are no moving parts to wear out or break down, and on the usability side, force detection technology leads to some interesting use scenarios. One of the examples Synaptics shared was being able to fast forward a movie at different rates of speed by pressing harder or softer on the right side of the ForcePad. Simply lift up your finger and the movie starts playing again. In games, you would be able to control moving vehicles or aircraft by pressing on either side.
In addition to advancing trackpad technology, Synaptics is also working on a new kind of laptop keyboard called ThinTouch. The new keyboard reduces key presses from 3-6 millimeters to just 2.5 millimeters, resulting in thinner planks and, by extension, skinnier Ultrabooks. Synaptics is also adding a capacity touch sensor to the entire plank, opening up a world of possibilities for developers.