To navigate to this webpage today, you had to scroll and click multiple times, whether you tapped down on a laptop trackpad or pressed a traditional mouse button.
But that simple mouse or trackpad click -- the primary way most of us tell our personal computers what we want them to do -- may be on its way out. A new kind of laptop trackpad, called the ForcePad, was recently introduced by hardware-maker Synaptics. The user doesn't have to click a button or tap the pad to make the cursor activate something on the screen. Instead, the ForcePad works by sensing how much pressure is applied to it.
Could this bring about the end of the mouse click?
Sure, ForcePad is everything we expect from new hardware -- it's thinner, more accurate and has no moving parts (meaning it's less breakable) -- but it's the new "force recognition" feature that layusers will immediately notice. To command a computer, users vary the amount of pressure with their fingers to the pad, which recognizes 64 difference levels of strength, according to Gizmodo. AllThingsD says ForcePad will start showing up in laptops by 2013.
So sure, we'll be able to point the computer cursor at something on our screen and push against the pad with enough force to "click" like we do now. But there will be no mechanical clicking noise or tap sound.
More profound, as the video above demonstrates, is not the lack of the click function but the crop of new functions that replace it. Repeated clicks are a thing of the past with this next-wave trackpad. Users can do things like scroll up and down webpages, rewind and fast-forward video, and toggle through long lists more or less quickly depending on the amount of pressure applied.
Synaptics' CEO Rick Bergman trumpeted the new product thus: “If the ForcePad had been around 15 years ago, I don’t know if we would ever have used the mouse."
Once programs and websites are designed to take advantage of force recognition, will old-school mice become totally obsolete?
Of course, new hardware is best described in moving pictures, not words. Check the videos above and below for more edification.