Synaptics wants to make mice, keyboards do more in games

— 6:00 AM on March 9, 2015

This past week at GDC, Synaptics unveiled several touch- and fingerprint-sensing solutions that could make mice and keyboards more versatile—and potentially better for gamers.

Perhaps the most interesting idea Synaptics showed is a built-in fingerprint sensor for mice, based on the company's Natural ID fingerprint scanning technology. Fingerprint scanners are most commonly seen in enterprise PCs, but Synaptics thinks the tech can be useful for gamers, as well.

One scenario the company presented involved using the biometric signature generated by the sensor to replace a discrete authenticator for games like World of Warcraft. Another involved using the sensor to authenticate in-game purchases without a separate password.

Synaptics also showed another mouse-related concept in which pressure sensors are integrated into the left and right mouse buttons. In a game like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, this pressure sensitivity might be used to bring up a weapon's scope with a light touch. A heavier press might trigger the weapon's maximum magnification. As with the fingerprint sensor, this technology could be useful outside of games, too. I'd love to be able to control brush sizes in Photoshop by varying the pressure on the left mouse button.

One more Synaptics concept that piqued my interest was the integration of capacitative touch sensors into the keyboard's space bar. The company presented a couple of use cases for this technology, such as zooming and panning around a real-time-simulation map. Although the idea initially weirded me out a little, rubbing one's thumbs over the spacebar isn't that unnatural a motion in practice, and it could make gestures like pinch-to-zoom practical without a separate touchpad.

Cool as these technologies sound in principle, we may have to wait some time before any of them show up in a shipping product. Synaptics' presentation didn't include any examples of future products from actual manufacturers. Should Synaptics score design wins with any of these solutions, though, I'd be eager to give the resulting products a spin.

Tip: You can use the A/Z keys to walk threads.
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