Tactus Unveils Touchscreen WIth Disappearing Keys

One of the hot new technologies on display this week at SID Display Week is a clever new alternative to the problem of the lack of physical feedback on touchscreen.

Tactus had just the one early prototype on hand, and it was an impressive sight. They've developed a way to add a layer on top of your standard touchscreen which, when enabled, adds a set of buttons to the otherwise flat screen. This layer consists of a network of channels  which feed a new type of fluid to certain areas on the screen.  When triggered, you'll see and feel clear buttons on top of the touchscreen, making this the first retractable touch feedback user interface.

The buttons can be enabled and disabled at the flick of a switch, and while in use they don't drain battery life. But there is some cost to enabling and disabling the buttons, of course. They feel much like any buttons on a mobile device, and while that description is vague it's also a positive. I've used devices with buttons that were more difficult to use (the Amazon K3, for example), so I'm pleased to say that this is far from the worst on the market.

Now, I've read The Verge report on this tech and I must disagree with some of the points. I thought the buttons provided enough feedback, and in any case the production model will likely improve on any shortcomings.

The button layer can still be felt and seen when deflated, but it wasn't a huge visual distraction and the layer didn't make the screen all that much more difficult to use. Keep in mind that this is a prototype; I think that when this gets into production the button layer is going to be much less obvious when not in use.

Right now the Tactus prototype is using segmented panel with predefined spaces to be inflated as buttons, but their long term plans include much finer control. They're hoping to achieve a panel that can match the resolution of the underlying tablet, and that would enable them to create buttons of any size  on-demand.

It's not expected to be on devices until the second half of next year.

About the gallery: Several of the photos show a bare prototype unit. If you look at the face you can see the channels that the fluid will flow through. You cannot see the buttons because they  would be formed by another layer on top of the one you see in the bare prototype. The screen assembly under that face is a run of the mill 7" screen/touchscreen component from Touch Revolution, one of Tactus' partners.



About Nate Hoffelder (11479 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

8 Comments on Tactus Unveils Touchscreen WIth Disappearing Keys

  1. I wondered how it worked. Liquid? Now we have to worry about leaky screens or some goop leaking into the components? Next!

  2. Really neat! Thanks for this report. Did you get any information about pricing?

  3. Mike has a good point. Injecting air would be better.

  4. I’m just happy to see anything that does this. The ability to extrude buttons, to me, is what has been missing from the touchscreen revolution. Having to look down all the time to anything is annoying. If they do get this out, though, we some kind of mix of resistive and capacitive sensors, since you want to be able to feel the buttons but have them only go off when you press.

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