Monday, June 18, 2012

Tactus Technology's Dynamic Display Creates Physical Buttons And Shapes on Touchscreens

California based Tactus' Technologies, has developed a material that can instantly deform itself to create physically raised buttons and shapes, to coincide with the display on smart phones and other touch devices. What follows, is the technical explanation on how their new tactile surface works, as explained in the company's White Paper;

"Made of a thin multi-layer stack, the top-most layer consists of an optically clear polymer. A number of micro-holes connect the top layers of the panel to a series of microchannels that run through the underlying substrate. The micro channels are filled with a fluid whose optical index of refraction matches that of the surrounding material, making it fully and evenly transparent when light from the display passes through.

Increasing the fluid pressure causes the fluid to push up through the holes and against the top polymer layer, making it expand in pre-defined locations. This enables an array of physical and completely transparent buttons to rise out of the surface. A small internal controller that interfaces with the processor of the touchscreen device controls the rise and fall of the buttons. The controller allows a proximity sensor or a software application to control the state of the buttons. For example, the buttons could be triggered to rise whenever the software calls for the virtual QWERTY keyboard"

I think this is amazing. First, because it's one of those fake looking, sci-fi sounding technologies, that just doesn't seem like it should be real when you first learn about it. But also, because I realize there are a lot of  people who still can't quite get used to the button-less touchscreen thing, and would really like to get their buttons back. Where as I,  am not personally harboring any great longing for the days of raised keys and D-pads. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I've become pretty anti-button at this point, as far as my user interface goes anyway. And this way, everybody's happy. Plus, just thinking about all the future applications one might find for a self deforming material, is pretty inspiring.



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