Tactus first look: the screen technology that adds a physical keyboard to a tablet

11 Jan 2013
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We wouldn’t have believed this if we hadn’t seen it with our eyes, but Tactus has created a way to add a genuine, physical keyboard to any touchscreen device. The cleverest bit: it appears when you’re typing and disappears when you no longer need to enter text.

You can see the tech in action above, but the photos below show the process in action too: top with the buttons, middle with the process halfway through switching, and the final photo shows the touchscreen in its default non-bumpy state.

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It works with anything that includes a touchscreen – smartphone, tablet, satnav, you name it – by replacing the top layer you traditionally find on a touchscreen with Tactus’s own Tactile Layer: it claims it’s the same thickness, so nothing else needs to change.

The pictures below give you some idea of how it works.

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Above is the layer in the off state. The diagram shows the tiny holes that perforate the surface, leading down to channels filled with fluid.

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By increasing the fluid pressure, it heads up through the holes and expands into the surface you can see in the photos above. In the case of Tactus’s technology, the OS saying “activate keyboard” also activates an increase in fluid pressure.

It’s darn clever, and Tactus says it’s already looking into production and has received interest from a range of manufacturers – not just Android, but Windows too.

Don’t expect retail add-on units to hit the shelves, though, because this is a technology that device manufacturers need to invest in at time of manufacture. Sorry.

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