Researchers Bring Physical Buttons To Touchscreens With New Tactile Technology

Tactus Technology is currently busy showcasing a ground-breaking new touchscreen technology that is being described as the “world’s first” deformable tactile surface. Using a ‘microfluidic’ technology, the team of researchers is demonstrating how any touchscreen display can be enhanced through pressable buttons literally ‘rising’ through the surface to create the impression of physical hardware.

Since Tactus Technology’ tactile layer is completely flat, transparent and only transforms into a more physical state when the phone allows it to; it adds no extra thickness to the overall display and merely complements interaction with the gadget.

Demonstrating their work at the SID Display Week 2012 in Boston, the technology works through the manufacturer working ‘channels’ underneath the surface of the touchscreen that are formed into any pattern the manufacturer so requires –- whether a QWERTY keyboard configuration or keypad number buttons –- and then involves pumping a special oil through the channels, in turn raising the profile of certain aspects of the layer.

Our infatuation with flush, mirror-like touchscreen displays shows no signs of slowing any time soon, but there’s no point shying away from the fact that we’ve lost something in the move away from the physicality of buttons. If Tactus can prove the technology works well enough for the big smartphone makers to follow suit and take advantage of its work, we might soon possess the best of both worlds.

Richard Birkett

I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.