Coolsmartphone New Tech Watch: Tactus & Tactile Layer Technology

If any of you have heard the Coolsmartphone Podcast you will have noticed several of our writers mention the loss of a physical keyboard. Many moons ago I owned a Blackberry Bold 9700, the keyboard on the handset was fantastic, I seemed to type more and quicker. Now I have a Samsung Nexus S complete with Swiftkey. Whilst not wishing to say that it is anything other than great it is certainly not as good as the Blackberry particularly for typing long documents or emails.

Many others have the same complaint. People want a physical keyboard but the real estate of a touch screen. Without having a device bigger than the Galaxy Note (essentially a tablet), how is this possible?

This is where a company called Tactus Technology comes in.

Tactus is based in Fremont, California and has been researching the next big thing in touchscreen technology. Called Tactile Layer™ technology, it is a new type of user interface for touchscreen devices.

The technology is fundamentally application-controlled and makes completely transparent physical buttons rise up from the touch-screen surface on demand.

Tactus say:

While touchscreens provide a versatile user experience, they provide no tactile experience for consumers. Vibration haptics and similar solutions try to simulate a sensation of touch, but all are “feedback” technologies, vibrating only after touching the screen (even if they are touched in the wrong place or by mistake). In contrast, Tactus’ technology creates real, physical buttons, where users can rest their fingers on the buttons, as on a mechanical keyboard, and input data by pressing down on the keys. Tactus is the only solution to both “orientation” and “confirmation” problems that are inherent in touch screens.

Tactus were at this years Society for Information Display (SID) conference where they won the Best Of Show, and claim that their technology can be integrated into any touchscreen device.

The technology utilizes a specially designed window that sits directly on top of a display’s touch sensor that has specially designed channels. A fluid is then forced in and out of these channels to raise the display surface and create a tactile interface for the end-user.

Tactus have created a video which can be viewed here demonstrating and explaining their innovative technology.

The applications for this new invention seem endless, not just for smartphones but for musicians, hospitals, or just imagine, you hold your phone to an NFC reader integrated into your car door and a small keypad raises up, type in your personal code and the car unlocks and sets the seats and mirrors to your specific positions.

If Tactus can perfect this technology and the touchscreen manufacturers take notice then this is certainly one to watch.

So, have a look at the video, consider how you would use this tech and let us know on our forums.

 

  • the_prof

    I’ve been really excited about this ever since I first heard about it 4 or 5 years ago.  I was hoping it might actually be available by now, but it certainly sounds like it’ll be a year or two more. 

    It really is an amazing concept, although I do wonder how it will affect the longevity of the screens themselves.  I’ve got quite used to gorilla glass screens with their high degree of scratch resistance.  It makes me wonder whether devices made with this stuff would be made of a softer, more scratch-prone material. 

    In any case, this could mean braille smartphones for the blind, and many other amazing applications.  Very exciting indeed.