Tactile Touchscreens on the Way

We’re surrounded by touchscreens now, but hitting the right button on a touchscreen interface can sometimes be a challenge, particularly if you’re trying to type out a lengthy message — my fat fingers are constantly hitting the wrong spot. A California company has come up with a very cool haptic solution that can form temporary physical buttons, guidelines or shapes on a touchscreen.

Tactus Technology’s Tactile Layer had its first public demonstration at the Society for Information Display (SID) 2012 Display Week show in Boston this week, where it was showcased on a prototype Google Android tablet. It’s a deformable tactile surface that creates “buttons” that users can see and feel. According tot he company, the panel uses microfluidic technology to create the buttons, which rise from the touchscreen and recede when they’re no longer needed. It doesn’t add any extra thickness to the display, because it replaces an existing layer in the display stack.

The microfluidic membrane includes channels that can be arranged in particular patterns. Fluid (in this case, special oil) is pumped into the channels to raise the membrane.

The technology is still in its nascent stages – the displays can only be set once to form keys/objects for specific displays (so right now, it could be set to form a QWERTY keyboard in a landscape orientation, but if you rotate a device like an iPad, it wouldn’t adjust the keyboard to portrait mode). However, you can set key height and pressure sensitivity, and the company claims relatively low power utilization. Eventually, Tactus hopes to develop more flexible interfaces so that the fluid channels can be reconfigured as needed.

You can see a video of the technology in action below:

Source: Tactus

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