Alps Electric Demos 'Non-contact Touchpad'

Sep 26, 2008
Masaru Yoshida, Nikkei Electronics
A minute capacitance sensor was embedded in both sides of the touchpad (under the blue stickers).
A minute capacitance sensor was embedded in both sides of the touchpad (under the blue stickers).
[Click to enlarge image]
An application was being operated by sensing a hand moving above the touchpad.
An application was being operated by sensing a hand moving above the touchpad.
[Click to enlarge image]

Alps Electric Co Ltd displayed "minute capacitance sensing technology," which enables to sense the electric capacity of a hand or fingers moving about 3cm above the sensors, as a reference exhibit at Alps Show 2008 in Japan.

Though the company did not reveal the details, the sensitivity of the sensor was enhanced by improving the noise reduction circuit so that it can detect a very minute change in capacitance of a moving hand.

Alps Electric held a demonstration of operating a video application by sensing a hand moving above the touchpad of a notebook PC. The capacitance sensor was embedded in both sides of the touchpad. It is possible to select a movie to play by moving a hand from side to side and to fast-forward or rewind a movie by rotating a hand in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction.

Enabling to operate a device without touching it, the technology is expected to be used in a place where hands get too dirty to operate a device. Also, because the sensor can be embedded in a device, it allows greater flexibility in design of devices. The schedule for commercialization has yet to be decided.

"Our technology is still under development," Alps Electric said. "We plan to enhance its robustness because it often malfunctions."