Tactus Debuts Tactile Tablet Keyboard

Whispers about innovations that take advantage of so-called microfluidic technology that can create buttons that rise and disappear on demand are finally coming to fruition. Tactus Technology is set to introduce what it promises will be a superior touchscreen typing experience with its first product, an iPad mini case called Phorm.

The all-in-one case, keyboard, and screen protector can dynamically add and remove tactile buttons on the iPad mini's screen to add texture to the on-screen keyboard. Phorm works via a series of small channels filled with fluid located behind an elastomeric panel that also functions as the screen protector portion of the case.

Activating the slider introduces pressure, causing the fluid to come up through the channels and into holes. The fluid then presses against the elastomer (a rubbery material), physically changing and morphing the display portion of the case to create buttons. When the slider is pushed back, the pressure is released and the buttons disappear as the liquid is dispersed back into the channels.

When the fluid-filled physical buttons pop up on the screen protector portion of the case, they give users a tactile typing experience while still letting them use the default iOS keyboard. Shifting the bar to the left allows the touchscreen to be used normally.

Ideal Applications

The case uses a tiny amount of fluid that poses no harm to an iPad should it be dropped or damaged, according to Tactus, which conducted extensive drop tests, scratch tests, and more.

We reached out to Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy, who told us a product like Phorm could be an improvement for people who use the keyboards on the displays of their tablets, or for people who donEUt want to use keyboard cases.

"The best of both worlds would be a keyboard built into...

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