With the continuing evolution of human-computer interfaces now seen in slick-looking, gesture-driven touch screens capable of both image projection and input processing, the trackpad is beginning to look a little outdated. Limited to input from a single finger in a small area located under the keyboard, the capacitive sensing touchpads are in need of a serious upgrade.
Despite being in the “post PC era,” with declining sales across all manufacturers, the laptop may get a radical upgrade. Jiseong Gu and colleagues have been developing a novel approach to the touchpad that has recently been accepted into CHI 2013. The KAIST Human Computer Interaction lab in South Korea’s Daejeon focuses on designs that best help people connect with their machine counterparts through innovative interfacing solutions. Using the lab’s ScreenPad technology, Gu has developed the LongPad to give the touchpad added features while increasing its size to cover the entire width of the laptop below the keyboard.
The LongPad consists of three main components: an infrared LED matrix serving as the emitter, a series of phototransistors performing optical sensing functions, and a transparent elastic sheet-detecting user input force. This construction gives the LongPad the ability to recognize user proximity, touch and gesture command, and force sensitivity for a highly flexible range of uses. By mapping different areas of the pad, a user will also be able to utilize one hand to scroll through on-screen applications while their dominant hand performs normal mouse-pointing functions.
Well, what if bad typing posture causes you to accidentally touch the LongPad in the middle of an intense work session? No problem. Thanks to the pad’s proximity sensing it can also detect the angle, shape, and size of whatever is interacting with it. This allows for the detection of unwanted wrists or shirt-cuffs touching the pad and distracting users from their work.
The next step for the KAIST lab is to present the technology at the Conference in Human Factors in Computing systems over in Paris, France at the end of April. The LongPad undoubtedly gives the seasoned touchpad technology new life and, if accepted by the computing world, may have a spot below the keyboards of future laptops.