Tactus Makes Your Screen TactileEver wished that you could type on a touch screen while enjoying the feel of physical keys? Tactus Technologies did. and their new technology does just that.
The idea is quite simple: put a thin layer between you and the touch screen. Whenever a key appears on the screen, pump a small amount of liquid into a sack right under the screen. The key will jump off the screen and into the real world, letting you get actual tactile feedback on what you are doing. It's really impressive stuff, as you can see in this video:
The technology lets the user choose how the keys are going to feel and how large they are. You could opt for tiny little nubs that you can barely feel, or you could go for Mount Everest, and make it so that you can't possibly miss a stroke.
Right now, this technology is still very much in the prototype phase. While Tactus did demonstrate it running on actual hardware, the key layout was purely for portrait mode on a single device. As it stands right now, the inflatable spots are fixed. You won't get a bubble floating over the joystick in a game for example. The microfluid channels that let the liquid flow back and forth are also visible, if you look hard enough. Tactics has done a great job of making them invisible, but once you notice them you can't not see them.
But the tech is still very cool. As it stands, apps are capable of controlling both the inflation rate and which keys get inflated. If a standardised layout for Tactus keys comes out, I could see designers designing around the keys.
In the future, the company sees these bubbles being used as sensors in addition to indicators. By measuring pressure, for example, you know how hard a person is pressing a button. That could prove to be a game-changing addition.