Intel's Concept Touchpad Lets You Control Apps on a Closed Laptop

After finally prying my eyes off Intel's unusual dual-screen laptops, I stumbled across yet another concept that could signal the end of the laptop as we know it.

Glowing on the front edge of an unnamed laptop, Project Ambient is what Intel believes will be the touchpad, or touchbar, of the future. I say glowing because curved around the front edge of the prototype is an OLED panel displaying a row of apps.

It's quite similar to the curved display on Samsung's Galaxy smartphones in that a row of icons provides quick access to pertinent information, like the remaining battery life of your laptop and upcoming calendar events.

In a brief demo, an Intel representative showed me how you can select the calendar icon to see a list of upcoming meetings. While the narrow display isn't ideal for displaying a ton of information at once, some clever UI allows you to scroll horizontally to see past and future entries.

But I was most intrigued by the battery life indicator. Companies use all sorts of methods to show you the remaining battery life on your closed laptop. For example, Dell has a small button on the side of its XPS laptops that illuminates five tiny LEDs, each of which represents 20% charge remaining. With the concept touchbar, you can see the exact percentage without even touching your laptop.

Other icons on the prototype touchpad include a mic for enabling Alexa, a power on/off switch and a Spotify icon that lets you play/pause tracks.

The OLED display actually extends onto the entire touchpad, but Intel only showed the screen on the front edge of a closed device. An Intel rep told me that he expects to see the touchbar in more laptops down the road.

If you want to see how companies are already using dual-screen displays, check out Asus' new ZenBook Pro Duo.

Phillip Tracy

Phillip Tracy is the assistant managing editor at Laptop Mag where he reviews laptops, phones and other gadgets while covering the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News covering 5G and IoT. When he's not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, traveling or watching soccer.