Known for pushing innovations in human interface solutions, Synaptic's announcement of the Fuse concept mobile phone, developed with global partners Texas Instruments, Immersion, TheAlloy, and The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), hints that the future of touch-based smartphone interaction is poised for major changes in the future.
Though as a company Synaptic may not illicit the level of consumer recognition held by heavy weights like Apple, LG, Sony, Dell, HTC, or Nokia, Synaptic's underlying touchscreen and touchpad hardware is used in many of their devices, including the majority of laptops worldwide, as well as in a variety of touch controlled phones.
Similar to the company's award winning Onyx mobile concept released in 2006, the Fuse and its integration of multiple interface technologies, which include multi-touch capacitive sensing, haptic feedback, and 3-D graphics, along with force, grip, and proximity sensors, was developed to trigger new ways of thinking in the industry about next generation handsets.
Breaking from current touch interaction norms largely established by the iPhone, the primary goals of this collaborative mobile concept centred on solving two key limitations of today's current touchscreen phones, mainly the need to view the screen in order to navigate to a desired function, and the inability to fully operate devices using only one hand.
Along those lines, thanks to the presence of novel force and capacitive touch sensors embedded in the Fuse's edges, the phone eliminates the need for visual cues in favour of executing a variety of common activities through grip based commands.
Similar to a concept outlined by Apple in its Nanophone concept patent application, touch controls on the back of the Fuse also enables 2D navigation via finger based input on the rear of the device.
When combined with the aforementioned grip based input, these two features allow for easy single handed navigation of the Fuse.
Thanks to extensive work from TAT, the Fuse's unique graphical user interface also plays a significant role in the concept phone's enhanced usability.
Experimenting boldly with 3D visualization techniques and handset positioning data provided by accelerometers, icons on the screen appear to float when selected and "roll" backwards or forwards from the home screen when tilt based scrolling is engaged.
While the Fuse itself is unlikely to ever be sold to consumers, its upcoming unveiling at CES in January 2010, does have the potential to drastically alter the course of handset development across the mobile industry from both the standpoint of hardware and software.
Depending on the industry's reaction, it's hard not to speculate that these cutting edge features showcased in the Fuse would soon trickle down to mobile devices released in the future, particularly when it comes to the additional touch sensory hardware provided by Synaptic. Especially given the company's current relationships with previously mentioned mobile titans such as LG, Sony, HTC, and Nokia.
However, how closely this technology and its associated features will resemble the current Fuse concept once it's released into the consumer marketplace is at this point anyone's guess.