Since their first public demonstration less than a month ago, Tactus Technology’s seemingly magical ability to create a physical keyboard that rises out of the surface (and recede to invisibility) from any touchscreen has become the topic of great speculation. They have brought their demonstration to the CE Line Shows in New York as a part of the Eureka Park Challenge (www.CE.org/Challenge).
Tactus’ “Tactile Layer” panel is a completely flat and transparent surface that uses microfluidic technology to create physical buttons that rise from the touchscreen to give users the experience of operating a physical keyboard and then recede into the surface when they are no longer needed. Adding no extra thickness to the standard touchscreen display since it replaces a layer of the already existing display.
Actually using the prototype enhanced the mystic possibilities for Tactus and their “tixels” (tactile pixels). The capabilities of the prototype, while amazing, are really only proof of concept. Currently limited to a single set of keys with a single function (i.e. a 12-key numeric keyboard), the team at the Tactus booth at the CE Line Show has much to say about the future possibilities. The first commercially available generation of the Tactile Layer is expected in the middle of 2013, that upgrade would allow for multiple sets of keys, but would not be able to have any overlap between sets (i.e. one device could have a numeric keyboard, alphabetic keyboard and a gaming control, but no “tixel” would be able to be used by more than one button). Generations beyond that would have full freedom, allowing multiple different sets of keys to take any position on the screen — effectively providing a physical keyboard for every different situation.
Recall the outrage surrounding the lack of a physical keyboard on the original iPhone in 2007 and consider that Tactus has effectively solved that problem… and made a tremendous evolutionary step in the way we interact with our technology. The “missing” physical keyboard on our phones, tablets, televisions, etc. could be reconciled and additional methods of input could be added anywhere a touch screen exists today.
For more information, visit www.tactustechnology.com.
UPDATE: Tactus Technology took the First Place award at the Eureka Park Challenge. They will receive a booth in Eureka Park at the 2013 International CES, up to $2,000 in booth space expenses, three hotel nights (up to $1,500), airfare to Las Vegas (up to $1,500), and $5,000 cash.