Computer Electronics

Video: Haptic touchpad brings a new feel to laptops at CES

11 January 2021

Sensel has introduced a haptic touchpad for notebook developers that incorporates three different haptic technologies into a single thin pad.

The touchpad includes a capacitive touch grid for capturing high resolution touch images on the surface of the pad; force field technology that captures the amount of force applied per finger and converts it into both force and shape data; and Sensel’s proprietary direct drive haptics, which kicks in one moment and clicks in the next based on the amount of force applied.

Haptic feedback provides interactive capabilities to existing devices. The technology uses touch such as a vibration found in smartphones or rumble in a game controller to provide more of an experience to static devices. Haptic technology, also called 3D touch, can feature in devices as forces, vibrations or motions through tactile sensors that measure forces exerted by the user on the interface.

Sensel’s haptic touchpad can be used for a wide range of practical applications because it is just 3 mm thick, allowing designers to reduce the thickness of laptops or allowing for a larger battery to be installed, the company said.

“Until now, touch and haptic technologies have been designed separately, resulting in challenging integrations for manufacturers and inconsistent performance for end-customers,” Ilya Rosenberg, CEO and founder of Sensel told Electronics360. “To our knowledge, we’re the first company to take these different technologies (touch, force, and haptics) and integrate them into a complete product that is modular and tuned specifically for our customers’ applications.”

The touchpad may open new paths for gestural controls, Rosenberg said. For example, a CAD designer could use the ability to rotate a 3D model in every direction by touching different parts of the touchpad. Force could be used to determine how quickly it rotates and even apply differential force to explode models. This type of technology could also be used for games and bringing a nuance to shooters, driving games and more.

Beyond notebooks, Sensel sees the haptic touchpad as applicable to more than just notebooks and could be used in tablets or PCs eventually. The touchpad is also scalable and functions under a hard glass covering, meaning it is applicable for high-end devices.

How it works

The touchpad features electrodes that are spaced closer together making it less susceptible to false touch failures even with smaller finger sizes, Rosenberg said. It features a linearity of less than 0.5mm across the entire sensor, which ultimately results in a natural experience between the user and the device.

Since the touchpad does not rely on a mechanical switch, it can scale up to any size to unlock more potential features.

Sensel plans to begin mass production of the touchpads in notebooks by the end of this year or early in 2022.

Sensel will be demonstrating the new haptic technology at the all-digital CES 2021 tradeshow taking place this week.

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