Synaptics Fuse concept packs smartphone with squeeze, stroke & scroll sensors [Video]

Dec 14, 2009
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The last Synaptics concept we really got excited about was the Onyx smartphone - in fact we went all the way to the company's head office to play with their prototype - and now they're back with a new smartphone idea.  The Synaptics Fuse takes multitouch capacitive sensing and throws in force, grip and proximity sensing, along with haptic feedback and 3D graphics.  The end result is a squeezable smartphone that spreads its sensors not only across the touchscreen but down the sides, too, so as to be fully usable even with just one hand.  Fuse is a collaboration between Synaptics, TI, Immersion, TheAlloy and The Astonishing Tribe, and is based on a TI OMAP 3630 processor and a 3.7-inch WVGA AMOLED touchscreen.

Video demo after the cut

It has 3-axis accelerometers and haptic feedback - both directional, built into the touchscreen, and rotational on the PCB - and there are capacitive scroll strips, proximity sensors and force sensors along the sides and back of the handset.  It's possible to scroll through lists by running a finger or thumb up and down the side or back of the Fuse, squeeze it to reset or change on-screen view, tilt it to move through different panes and manage open apps using a finger on the back panel.  There's obviously also on-screen multitouch and gestures, but because you can use the Fuse without touching the display it'll be useful if you've got dirty hands and don't want to smudge your screen.

Synaptics and the others will be demonstrating the Fuse concept at CES and Mobile World Congress early next year; however there's no talk of a production version.  Instead they'll be hoping to license the technology to manufacturers who will integrate it into their own smarter-than-smart devices.

Press Release:

Synaptics Debuts FuseTM Next-Generation Mobile Phone Concept

Synaptics, Texas Instruments, Immersion, TheAlloy, and The Astonishing Tribe demonstrate collaborative design to drive the future of mobile interaction beyond the touchscreen

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – December 14, 2009 – Synaptics Incorporated (NASDAQ: SYNA), a leading developer of human interface solutions for mobile computing, communications, and entertainment devices, today introduced FuseTM, a collaborative mobile phone concept, demonstrating the future of user interaction for handsets. Integrating for the first time multiple interface technologies—including multi-touch capacitive sensing, haptic feedback, 3-D graphics, and force, grip, and proximity sensing—the Fuse concept phone showcases exciting new mobile device usage models. In addition, Fuse demonstrates to device manufacturers the value of ecosystem collaborations providing a model for designing multi- modal interfaces that will optimize the user experience on next-generation handheld device. Every step in the value chain affects and is affected by the end product. A truly collaborative approach takes advantage of each partner’s unique contributions in benefiting the user.

Beyond Today’s Touchscreen
Fuse extends the now-prevalent touchscreen-based user experience first unveiled in August 2006 with Synaptics’ award-winning Onyx mobile concept. With Fuse’s bold lineup of innovative interface technologies, Synaptics and partners tackle the difficulty of single- handed usage and the need to look at the screen—two key challenges faced by on-the-go users in current-generation touchscreen phones.
Fuse’s innovative sensing technologies surrounding the entire device enable quick, intuitive, single-handed navigation. For example, grip sensing achieved via force and capacitive touch sensors on the sides of the phone allows the user to execute common controls such as pan and scroll. In addition to the novel side sensors, Fuse introduces for the first time, 2D navigation from the back of the phone. This feature offers yet another mode of effective and fun single-handed control without obstructing the display or enhanced usability, Fuse combines multiple sensory input and feedback technologies including active 3-D graphics and next-generation haptic effects.
“Consumers have many options when it comes to choosing a smartphone, and though many phones are loaded with applications to simplify one’s life, they often accomplish just the opposite,” said William Stofega, research manager for mobile device technology and trends at IDC. “Synaptics partnering with innovative industry leaders to deliver an intelligent concept device that has the consumers' lifestyles in mind will help showcase the true potential of the smartphone.”

Collaborative Design
The Fuse mobile phone concept is the result of a unique collaboration between Synaptics and four global partners—TheAlloy, The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), Immersion, and Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI). With human interface and digital lifestyle in mind, the Fuse design team created a stunning and functional user interface with innovative new modes of sensing input, and visual and haptic feedback.
Each partner provided valuable expertise and contributions to the project:
• TheAlloy led the user experience and overall product design efforts.
• TAT enabled the effective 3-D environment and lent their extensive user interface
software design skills.
• Immersion made possible the tactile feedback, ensuring an integrated and satisfying
experience.
• TI’s OMAPTM 3630 processor provided the framework and platform to leverage the
enhanced multimedia, graphics and imaging features that consumers crave.

Additionally, Synaptics’ ClearPadTM, NavPointTM, and TouchButtonsTM solutions are used in the Fuse mobile concept to offer unique capabilities—such as two-finger input, proximity sensing, grip sensing, text entry, and high-resolution finger input—providing precise pointing and navigation that can dramatically improve and enhance the user experience with a touchscreen.

Future handset innovation will rely on the relationship between technology design and designers to unlock the potential of mobile phones as an ideal computing platform. Fuse illustrates to OEMs the advances in Synaptics’ sensing technologies and the collaborative effort that will inspire a new wave of multi-modal input design.

“The best touch experience requires the expertise and collaboration of ecosystem leaders to optimize what the user sees and feels,” said Gopal Garg, senior vice president of Synaptics’ handheld business unit and corporate marketing. “The improved sensory experience of Fuse will drive handset innovation to evolve, taking the current generation of touch-based interaction to the next level of human-device interaction.”
“The Fuse project has demonstrated the power of multi-party collaboration to deliver experience-led innovation, said Gus Desbarats, chairman, TheAlloy. “Each partner within the Fuse project has helped to show the effect that leading-edge technology can deliver when applied with design thinking.”

“Exceptional user experience differentiates the best designs,” said Craig Vachon, senior vice president and general manager of Immersion’s touch line of business. “Fuse exemplifies the power of collaboration and realizes what is possible by integrating innovative technology, including Immersion’s next-generation TouchSense solutions. Working with these partners has been gratifying; Fuse is further validation that our haptics technology brings to life the power of touch and makes devices more intuitive, satisfying, and fun to use.”

“Providing our technology in order to showcase user experience paradigms of next generation devices is one of the key ingredients that keep TAT ahead of the trends in mobile user interfaces”, says Charlotta Falvin, chief executive officer of The Astonishing Tribe. “Realizing design ideas that push the limits of technology like the Fuse UI does is one of our passions.”

“The world is changing, and so is the way people interact with their mobile devices. TI is excited to be a part of the innovative Fuse concept that reiterates the significant headway we’re making to advance mobile user experiences,” said Fred Cohen, director of worldwide ecosystem partners for Texas Instruments. “TI’s OMAP platform works in sync with these other impressive technologies to bring big-screen, life-like capabilities to consumers’ fingertips.”

For more information on the Fuse mobile concept, visit http://www.synaptics.com/fuse Fuse will be demonstrated during CES in Las Vegas at the Synaptics, Immersion, and TI meeting areas, and at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February.

About Synaptics
Synaptics (NASDAQ: SYNA) is a leading developer of human interface solutions for the mobile computing, communications, and entertainment industries. The company creates interface solutions for a variety of devices including notebook PCs, PC peripherals, digital music players, and mobile phones. The TouchPadTM, Synaptics’ flagship product, is integrated into a majority of today's notebook computers. Consumer electronics and computing manufacturers use Synaptics' solutions to enrich the interaction between humans and intelligent devices through improved usability, functionality, and industrial design. The company is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif. www.synaptics.com

About TheAlloy
Based in Farnham in the UK, TheAlloy is a design consultancy with expertise focused on product design, interaction design, and strategy. TheAlloy help organizations deliver excellent user experiences by creating the look, feel and behavior of products and screen based interfaces. With work predominantly focused in the technology sector, TheAlloy are experts in hardware and software design for the telecommunications and convergence markets. We have worked with a wide range of brands including BT, Toshiba, HP, and Thomson.

About Immersion
Haptic (touch) technology is key to the future of user experience in digital devices. Founded in 1993, Immersion harnesses human touch to create user experiences that deliver a more compelling sense of the digital world. Using one of Immersion's adaptable high fidelity haptic systems, partners can achieve a competitive advantage and greater revenue opportunities with products that are more intuitive, satisfying, efficient, and safe. With Immersion technology, world-class companies can deliver improved user experiences in products such as widely popular video games, leading video console gaming systems, advanced automotive driver controls, and award-winning mobile phones. Immersion manufactures its own line of medical simulators that incorporate touch technology. These virtual reality training tools, installed around the world, enable practitioners to improve their practice of sophisticated life-saving surgical procedures prior to operating on patients. With over 800 issued or pending patents in the U.S. and other countries, Immersion is the leading innovator in touch-enabled user experiences that bring the digital universe to life. Learn more at www.immersion.com.

About TAT
TAT – The Astonishing Tribe AB has added the WOW-effect to mobile user interfaces for more than 300 million devices worldwide. Our products, TAT CascadesTM and TAT Motion LabTM, built on the renowned TAT KastorTM platform, has transformed the way UI design and graphics can be implemented on a wide range of mobile devices. TAT products are recognized for their time-to-market savings, resource efficiency and platform independence, giving users a more dynamic, faster and richer multimedia experience, in a truly astonishing way. TAT is headquartered in Malmoe, Sweden, and with local offices in Korea and USA. Learn more at www.tat.se.

About Texas Instruments
Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN) helps customers solve problems and develop new electronics that make the world smarter, healthier, safer, greener and more fun. A global semiconductor company, TI innovates through design, sales and manufacturing operations in more than 30 countries. For more information, go to www.ti.com.

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