The spacebar on your PC keyboard has a lot of potential.
Or at least that's what a company called Synaptics wants us to believe. It thinks the spacebar is underutilised and has come up with a solution: give it touch capabilities. Synaptics has developed something called SmartBar and just announced the technology while at Computex 2015.
Here's everything we know so far...
What is Synaptics?
Synaptics develops touch-based human interfaces and biometrics technologies for smart devices. These products - which range from touchscreens to fingerprint IDs - have been adopted and implemented by several major companies, including Acer, Amazon, Asus, Dell, Google, HP, HTC, Lenovo, LG, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, etc.
What is SmartBar?
SmartBar is for desktop PCs and notebooks. It adds finger-based touch gestures to the keyboard spacebar.
"As the natural resting spot for the thumbs, users can now use SmartBar touch gestures for rapid editing of text, simplified zoom, or any number of customisable functions," explained Synaptics. "Speed and productivity are made possible with SmartBar in uses such as performance gaming and office programs."
How does SmartBar work?
The SmartBar won't replace your trackpad. It's meant to give you another trackpad-like surface on your laptop that either you or your device manufacturer will be able to program to do specific things.
A single-thumb swipe gesture on the spacebar can be programmed to select a word in a document, for instance, while a double-thumb pinch or expand gesture on the spacebar can be programmed to zoom on a document or image.
The SmartBar can also be configured with up to five virtual buttons, each of which can be programmed to provide shortcuts to game controls or desktop functions (thus replacing common keyboard shortcuts).
What are some other use-cases?
Synaptic's graphic (above) illustrates how you can use your thumbs to launch app menus or scroll vertically through documents and web pages using only your thumbs, among other things.
When will you see SmartBar-enabled spacebars in PCs?
It's hard to say.
SmartBar is available for OEMs now, and ThermalTake said it is making a gaming keyboard with SmartBar, but there's not much details other than that. It'll therefore be interesting to see if and when this technology takes off.