In Brief: Tactus’ Shapeshifting Keys for Your Tablet

By Norman Chan

Tactile touchscreens.

Touchscreen keyboards on our smartphones and tablets are totally serviceable, but there are still people who prefer the tactile response of physical keys. For example, if you have long nails, it's still easier to type on a Blackberry than it is on a small touchscreen. One technology that may give users the best of both worlds is transforming screens, which spring pronounced keys on command for typing, but can lay flush when not in use. Tactus Technology has the first consumer product using this kind of technology, in an iPad mini case called Phorm. As Wired explains, Phorm's pop-up keys are like small bubbles embedded in a thin transparent panel (akin to a screen protector). Switching it on pumps microfluids into those bubbles, propping them up for tactile typing. The whole process is hydraulic--it doesn't require batteries because the switch to activate these buttons is basically a pump on the back of the iPad case. And while Tactus' products will initially be tablet and smartphone cases, they're also experimenting with making their own tablets with integrated transforming screens for more than just key typing.