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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Tactus tech takes touch, makes it feely

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CNET Editor

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon

The Tactus touchy screen tech on an iPhone.
(Screenshot by CBSi)

Everyone wants a touchscreen smartphone, but many loathe that they have to give up the keypads of old in the transition. We want large screens to read with, we want large tactile keyboards and we want phones that measure 8mm in thickness. Pleasing modern tech consumers sure ain't an easy task.

Tactus is a company that thinks it has the solution: a deformable layer that changes shape, based on the touch sensitive areas of the screen. When you, for example, launch the keyboard, a small bubble raises over each key. When you finish typing, it returns to a flat surface. According to Tactus CEO Craig Ceisla in the video below, the system is being designed so that it can be easily integrated into all sorts of devices, but that the origin of the tech was in response to the Apple iPhone, initially.

Best of all, the screens aren't designed to just take the form of a keyboard or keypad. All sorts of applications will be able to take advantage of this screen and create unique shapes based on their requirements. This will probably mean tactile gaming controls in the short term, but it could lead to all sorts of interesting ideas down the track.

Of course, this isn't the sort of technology that will be released to the public as a smartphone case you can buy on eBay. Instead, it will be used in partnership with the major manufacturers, with Tactus hoping to be on a phone near you by 2013.

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RezaT posted a comment   

I don't buy it. It sounds like a lot could go wrong with pop-up buttons. And due to the nature of the technology and the slow response time for the popup (relatively), it sounds like it wouldn't become a major feature. I'm sure some will use it but the application of it will be limited.

Perhaps I'm being too critical. What would make this work well, in my opinion, is if the popup buttons were designed to have an analogue pressure sensitivity sensor. Maybe it does and they just haven't shared those details with us. It's interesting research to follow, for sure, but with the details provided I wouldn't invest money in the company just yet.

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