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Touch screens soon to track 10 fingers

Touch screens tracking all your digits might come to a mobile phone near you next year, thanks to a multifinger sensor from Synaptics.

Mats Lewan
Mats Lewan, IT and telecom editor at Swedish technology weekly Ny Teknik, has joined CNET News as a 2009 fellow with Stanford University's Innovation Journalism program. E-mail Mats.
Mats Lewan
2 min read
New sensors from Synaptics will let devices recognize the touch of up to 10 fingers at a time. Synaptics

Touch screens that track two fingers will soon seem basic. At least if you compare them with the multitouch-sensor ClearPad 3000 Series, recently announced by Santa Clara, Calif.-based Synaptics.

The transparent sensor tracks up to 10 simultaneous finger touches--we assume that should cover most uses--making possible complex multifinger gestures such as closing an application by "crumpling" it with several fingers, or playing polyphonic sounds on a virtual piano keyboard.


Apple made multitouch popular with its iPhone, which debuted about four months after Synaptics introduced its currently shipping two-finger sensor, ClearPad 2000, in August 2006. Though widely speculated that Apple is using Synaptics' technology, that has not been confirmed.

One phone that does use the sensor is the T-mobile G1 by HTC, and manufacturers such as Samsung and LG are also confirmed customers.

The new sensor features an accuracy of plus/minus 1 mm, is 0.3 mm thick, and is available in sizes up to 8 inches diagonally.

That supported screen size, and the speculated relationship between Synaptics and Apple, makes us wonder if this sensor is what Apple's been waiting for to launch its much-rumored tablet.

Synaptics is also introducing a more basic model, the ClearPad 1000 Series, that supports single-finger gestures such as tapping, pinching, pressing, and flicking. These sensors are available in sizes up to 4.3 inches diagonally.

The company says manufacturers already have the sensors in hand, and consumers can expect to products containing them by the end of the year.

The sensors use capacitive technology, usually considered to be more sensible to fingers than resistive sensors, and also more transparent. Capacitive sensors cannot be used with a stylus or a glove though, as opposed to resistive sensors.