Tactus demonstrates physical button technology for touchscreens

Tactus Touchscreen Technology
A physical keyboard and touchscreen in one

Touchscreen keyboards could start feeling more like physical keyboards, as Tactus Technology makes its first demonstration for dynamic raised buttons on a touchscreen interface.

Tactus says it uses microfluidic technology to cause physical buttons to rise on the screen when needed, and then recede when no longer in use.

As an example, pulling up a virtual keyboard would cause bumps to form over the QWERTY keys.

The technology can be used for more than just keyboards though, as the dynamic display could allow any virtual button can become a physical one.

Buttons can form in any shape, height, or firmness that the software specifies, with Tactus demonstrating circular domed buttons as well as flat square ones.

The new screen technology won't add any extra bulk to devices since it "replaces a layer of the already existing display stack."

Touchscreens are typically made from display, touch interface, and cover lens layers, with the third layer replaced by a cover capable of dynamic physical buttons.

Ready for demonstration

While this all sounds like sci-fi future tech, Tactus recently performed its first public demonstration of its screen technology at Display Week 2012 in Boston.

The demonstration was done on a prototype Android tablet through a partnership with capacitive multi-touch screen manufacturer Touch Revolution.

Though no devices are announced to use the technology, Tactus is pursuing everything from smartphones, tablets, and e-readers to remote controls, medical devices, and car displays.

There are still many major questions about the Tactus displays in need of answers, such as how easily can developers write software to support it and how it will impact device battery life.

Tactus is hoping we'll be able to get our hands on devices using its screen technology by the middle of 2013, paving the way for the bumpy future of mobile devices.