Synaptics SmartBar puts gesture controls under the thumb

Forget swiping across a notebook trackpad-- the SmartBar lets you highlight text, zoom in on your screen and power through games by supercharging the spacebar.

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Claire Reilly
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Synaptics' SmartBar technology brings gesture controls to the traditional spacebar. Synaptics

The humble spacebar is about to get an upgrade, potentially doing away with the need for a mouse and bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase "touch typing."

Synaptics, the company behind some of the leading touch technologies we see in our devices today, including the ubiquitous TouchPad, has announced Thursday a major makeover for the "underutilized spacebar," bringing gesture controls to the most commonly used key on the keyboard.

While notebook manufacturers have long been offering the TouchPad as a built-in replacement for the mouse, Synaptics wants to bring the touch interface even closer to your thumbs by putting it into the traditional spacebar.

It's called the SmartBar, and Synaptics says it's the first technology to market that will allow computer users, gamers and even regular office workers to use their spacebar for touch controls.

There are a number of gestures supported by the SmartBar to help speed up typing and screen navigation. A single-thumb swipe will allow you to select an entire word for quick text editing, for instance, while a double-thumb pinch will let you quickly zoom in or out of a document.

The company is also promising up to five Programmable Logical Buttons, meaning the SmartBar can be configured to perform shortcuts for repetitive desktop tasks or execute macros for "critical game controls."

The PC gaming market is an obvious target for the SmartBar and Synaptics has showed its intentions early by partnering with "early adopters" TT eSports, the gaming accessory division of PC component company ThermalTake.

The technology is also available now to original equipment manufacturers to install into other desktop devices. Synaptics already has manufacturing relationships with a huge number of computer brands, including Samsung, LG, Sony and Logitech, so we could soon see the SmartBar technology rolling out across a broad range of devices.

The announcement from Synaptics was just one of many exciting developments to come out of Computex, which has been running in Taipei this week. For more information on all the major computing, gaming and peripheral news to come out of the event, check out CNET's full Computex coverage.