Last December, the world was introduced to the Synaptics Fuse, a new concept in mobile communications. The prototype smartphone is the result of a collaboration between Synaptics, Texas Instruments, Immersion, TheAlloy and The Astonishing Tribe (TAT). What makes this phone so special is its user/phone interface. It takes Synaptics’ pioneering touchscreen technology to a whole new level, allowing people to use the phone one-handed, and without having to even see the screen.

Conventional phones limit their touch-reception to capacitive sensing, meaning they simply detect when a finger makes contact with their screen. The Fuse incorporates capacitive and force sensors, and has them not only on its screen, but also along its sides and even on its back. The side sensors read your grip pressure, allowing for things like one-handed panning and scrolling, while the back sensors allow for unobstructed screen navigation. Two-finger input is possible, which could open the door for all sorts of new functions.

The phone also features haptic feedback, meaning that it can communicate with you through your sense of touch. You know those arcade games where the steering wheel shakes when your car goes off the track? That’s an example of haptic feedback. The Fuse uses it to let you know where your finger is on the screen, even if you can’t see it.

The nature of the development of the Fuse is also a pretty big deal, as the collaboration resulted in an end product with more good qualities than any one company could have provided. Features such as the sensor technology came from Synaptics, while Texas Instruments provided the OMAP 3630 processor, Immersion provided the haptic feedback, TheAlloy was responsible for the overall design, and TAT developed the 3D graphics and user interface software.

Is the Fuse going to be available soon in a store near you? Hard to say. Does it look like it would be fun to play with? Oh yeah.

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