DESPITE A STEADY MARCH OF technological advances, personal computers can still be physically cumbersome to use. Icons, mice, and trackballs, while an improvement over old character-based systems, are still not easy for those of us lacking hand-eye coordination. Which is why Synaptics Inc., a San Jose (Calif.) startup, believes there is a market for a product that makes computing as easy as finger painting.

The company's first product is a pressure-sensitive touch pad that will make its debut on computers from Epson America Inc., Twinhead Corp., and other manufacturers later this year. The Synaptics TouchPad replaces mice and trackballs with a pressure-sensing tablet that lets users control the cursor by gliding a finger across the surface or tapping on it. Move left, and the cursor mimics your motion.

The TouchPad is able to precisely interpret the finger motions through the use of sophisticated pattern-recognition software that works much like the human brain. Synaptics is hoping to adapt the technology for a whole range of applications; currently, the company is developing a method of handwriting recognition.

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