Microsoft continues to build inclusive accessories and features for its mainstream products and the company showed off more at its annual fall event on Thursday. It unveiled an Adaptive Touch feature that works on the “precision haptic trackpad” of the Surface Laptop Studio 2. During its keynote, the company called this the “most inclusive touchpad on any laptop,” and based on my early impressions, that claim might just be true.
Not a lot is currently known about how the feature will work, but I was able to spend some time with Microsoft’s accessibility program manager Solomon Romney to get a deeper understanding. Romney was born without fingers on his left hand and struggles to use standard touchpads on most laptops. Adaptive Touch allows him to drag his left hand on the glass-covered surface and not have the cursor jump around the screen.
The first thing to point out is that the adaptive touch feature currently requires a haptic trackpad to work, meaning at the moment it’s only available on the Surface Laptop Studio 2. You’ll have to go into the computer’s touchpad settings and enable Adaptive Touch, which throws up an alert that you won’t be able to use multitouch gestures like pinch to zoom.
That’s because the system is looking for multiple points of contact with the trackpad and noticing if they’re moving in the same general direction, to determine where to move the mouse. It’s in part based on the technology that Microsoft uses for palm rejection, but reconfigured for Adaptive Touch.
Microsoft barely mentions this feature in its materials announcing the Surface Laptop Studio 2, and Google searches for terms like “Microsoft inclusive trackpad” or “Surface Laptop Studio 2 accessibility touchpad” yield unrelated results. It’s clear there’s still a lot to understand about how Adaptive Touch works and what its limits are. For now, though, it's encouraging to see Microsoft continue to design for inclusivity.
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