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January 13, 2014

Shape-shifting keyboards are a reality

Tactus’s morphing touchscreen was a hit at CES 2014.

By Ben Sullivan

Imagine going to write an email on your iPad, bringing up the touchscreen keyboard and suddenly, out of nowhere, a physical keyboard with raised keys emerges out of your screen.

No, this isn’t some science-fiction inspired piece of vapourware, or an annoyingly misleading headline – this is a real thing, thanks to tech firm Tactus.

At a demonstration at CES 2014, Tactus showed off its technology that, on command, instantly produces key-sized bumps on your tablet’s screen that gives the on-screen keyboard a tactile feel.

"Magic!?" I hear you gasp in awe, but no, this is no sorcery, this is surpisingly simple technology at work.

Tactus’s technology operates by applying a plastic layer to your screen with channels that expand when pressure is applied to liquid below its surface. Yes, the keys actually become tiny little water balloons.

However, the keys aren’t filed with water, as that would impair vision because of refraction. Instead, they’re filled with a liquid that offers up the same optical qualities as the screen surface, so no blurring occurs and everything is crystal clear.

Alongside the physical keyboard technology, Tactus also showed off an app that creates physical ‘bumbs’ between keys, which again offers better typing functionality on touchscreen devices.

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All of the potential applications for this fledgling technology make it very exciting. Perhaps one day this could be implemted on all touch screens, maybe it could even REPLACE physical keyboard technology?

Like a lot of mind-boggling technology showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show each year, we may not hear of Tactus or its physical keyboards again. Certain revolutionary ideas just seem to vanish, but we’ll be watching this one closely, if not useful it’d be great just to show off to friends!


Tactus sketches out some possible uses on its website.

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