updated 02:25 pm EDT, Mon June 4, 2007
Normally known for its trackpads and jukebox controls, Synaptics today unveiled SmartTouch, a new concept for the dedicated media keys normally found ahead of the keyboard on most notebooks. Rather than fix the controls in hardware, SmartTouch relies on buttons with an on-screen display to indicate their role. The flexibility means that the buttons can change with each program that launches: controls may change from navigating a DVD in a media player to skipping through a browser or the operating system itself.
The software element will also let end users change basic behavior that has often been set in stone, Synaptics notes. Software settings could quickly adjust audio cues, light effects, or the actual functions of the buttons themselves, letting them change as new features are added to a program or the user discovers a preferred feature.
SmartTouch is already available from Synaptics, but will require companies such as HP (which use touch media buttons in their notebooks) to integrate the technology into future PCs in the next several months.