Fuse: What Your Next Touch Phone Is Going to Feel Like

Fuse is what Synaptics—who probably made the trackpad you're swirling your finger on, and maybe your phone's touchscreen—says the next generation of touch phones will be like: You'll be squeezing, touching and stroking the phone, all over.

The more three-dimensional interface is designed by The Astonishing Tribe, who also designed Android's UI, as well as interfaces for Sony Ericsson and pretty much every other phonemaker at one point or another.

The major thing here is a couple of new gestures: A squeeze gesture, which is detected by additional accelerometers, and a seamless touchpad embedded in the back, so you can scroll by stroking the back of the phone, where you're not hiding the screen. Tilt also gets a lot more play here, the idea being that you can more easily use it one-handed.

The phone's a concept, led by Synaptics and using hardware like their ClearPad 3000, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the basic concepts show up in phones from LG and others, since a lot of companies use Synaptics' tech in their phones.

UPDATE: Here's a slightly prettier video directly from TAT:

Synaptics Debuts FuseTM Next-Generation Mobile Phone Concept
Synaptics, Texas Instruments, Immersion, TheAlloy, and The Astonishing Tribe demonstrate collaborative design to drive the future of mobile interaction beyond the touchscreen

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – December 14, 2009 – Synaptics Incorporated (NASDAQ: SYNA), a leading developer of human interface solutions for mobile computing, communications, and entertainment devices, today introduced FuseTM, a collaborative mobile phone concept, demonstrating the future of user interaction for handsets. Integrating for the first time multiple interface technologies-including multi-touch capacitive sensing, haptic feedback, 3-D graphics, and force, grip, and proximity sensing-the Fuse concept phone showcases exciting new mobile device usage models. In addition, Fuse demonstrates to device manufacturers the value of ecosystem collaborations providing a model for designing multi- modal interfaces that will optimize the user experience on next-generation handheld device. Every step in the value chain affects and is affected by the end product. A truly collaborative approach takes advantage of each partner's unique contributions in benefiting the user.

Beyond Today's Touchscreen
Fuse extends the now-prevalent touchscreen-based user experience first unveiled in August 2006 with Synaptics' award-winning Onyx mobile concept. With Fuse's bold lineup of innovative interface technologies, Synaptics and partners tackle the difficulty of single- handed usage and the need to look at the screen-two key challenges faced by on-the-go users in current-generation touchscreen phones.
Fuse's innovative sensing technologies surrounding the entire device enable quick, intuitive, single-handed navigation. For example, grip sensing achieved via force and capacitive touch sensors on the sides of the phone allows the user to execute common controls such as pan and scroll. In addition to the novel side sensors, Fuse introduces for the first time, 2D navigation from the back of the phone. This feature offers yet another mode of effective and fun single-handed control without obstructing the display or enhanced usability, Fuse combines multiple sensory input and feedback technologies including active 3-D graphics and next-generation haptic effects.

"Consumers have many options when it comes to choosing a smartphone, and though many phones are loaded with applications to simplify one's life, they often accomplish just the opposite," said William Stofega, research manager for mobile device technology and trends at IDC. "Synaptics partnering with innovative industry leaders to deliver an intelligent concept device that has the consumers' lifestyles in mind will help showcase the true potential of the smartphone."

Collaborative Design
The Fuse mobile phone concept is the result of a unique collaboration between Synaptics and four global partners-TheAlloy, The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), Immersion, and Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI). With human interface and digital lifestyle in mind, the Fuse design team created a stunning and functional user interface with innovative new modes of sensing input, and visual and haptic feedback.
Each partner provided valuable expertise and contributions to the project:
• TheAlloy led the user experience and overall product design efforts.
• TAT enabled the effective 3-D environment and lent their extensive user interface
software design skills.
• Immersion made possible the tactile feedback, ensuring an integrated and satisfying
experience.
• TI's OMAPTM 3630 processor provided the framework and platform to leverage the
enhanced multimedia, graphics and imaging features that consumers crave.

Additionally, Synaptics' ClearPadTM, NavPointTM, and TouchButtonsTM solutions are used in the Fuse mobile concept to offer unique capabilities-such as two-finger input, proximity sensing, grip sensing, text entry, and high-resolution finger input-providing precise pointing and navigation that can dramatically improve and enhance the user experience with a touchscreen.

Future handset innovation will rely on the relationship between technology design and designers to unlock the potential of mobile phones as an ideal computing platform. Fuse illustrates to OEMs the advances in Synaptics' sensing technologies and the collaborative effort that will inspire a new wave of multi-modal input design.

"The best touch experience requires the expertise and collaboration of ecosystem leaders to optimize what the user sees and feels," said Gopal Garg, senior vice president of Synaptics' handheld business unit and corporate marketing. "The improved sensory experience of Fuse will drive handset innovation to evolve, taking the current generation of touch-based interaction to the next level of human-device interaction."

"The Fuse project has demonstrated the power of multi-party collaboration to deliver experience-led innovation, said Gus Desbarats, chairman, TheAlloy. "Each partner within the Fuse project has helped to show the effect that leading-edge technology can deliver when applied with design thinking."

"Exceptional user experience differentiates the best designs," said Craig Vachon, senior vice president and general manager of Immersion's touch line of business. "Fuse exemplifies the power of collaboration and realizes what is possible by integrating innovative technology, including Immersion's next-generation TouchSense solutions. Working with these partners has been gratifying; Fuse is further validation that our haptics technology brings to life the power of touch and makes devices more intuitive, satisfying, and fun to use."

"Providing our technology in order to showcase user experience paradigms of next generation devices is one of the key ingredients that keep TAT ahead of the trends in mobile user interfaces", says Charlotta Falvin, chief executive officer of The Astonishing Tribe. "Realizing design ideas that push the limits of technology like the Fuse UI does is one of our passions."

"The world is changing, and so is the way people interact with their mobile devices. TI is excited to be a part of the innovative Fuse concept that reiterates the significant headway we're making to advance mobile user experiences," said Fred Cohen, director of worldwide ecosystem partners for Texas Instruments. "TI's OMAP platform works in sync with these other impressive technologies to bring big-screen, life-like capabilities to consumers' fingertips."