This may look like just a normal, everyday keyboard, but if it was, we wouldn't be writing about it now, would we? No, this is far more than a keyboard: it's a giant touchpad, with keys on top.
To make a keyboard out of a touchpad, you can't use the same sort of hardware that most keyboards have inside them. Instead of the little scissor springy things (which you may have lurking under the keys of your board), Synaptics instead went with a sort of ramp. You can see it in the picture below: if you look closely, you'll notice that there's some space below each key, and when you push them, they depress at an angle of about 45 degrees:
We tried typing on it, and it's not something you'll notice, but it lets Synaptics stuff a trackpad under the whole shebang, since the edges of the keys can depress down into the pad itself.
What can you do with this? Whatever you want! There are lots of possibilities, since each key suddenly becomes sensitive to pressure. For example, you can instruct your keyboard to automatically BOLD AND CAPITALIZE YOUR TEXT WHEN YOU POUND ON THE KEYBOARD LIKE THIS. Or it could italicize your text when you type extra softly like this. Or, maybe you could beef up your passwords by additionally requiring correct pressure patterns.
It's one of those innovations where there's a lot of potential for end users to imagine crazy things, but while the tech is ready to go, Synaptics wouldn't tell us when we might see it in a laptop.
Posted on location at CES 2013 in Las Vegas. All photos taken by Evan Ackerman for DVICE.