Soon, you can zap up on-demand buttons on your touch screen — with Tactus technology

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The world of touch phones is no longer flat. Tactus is the answer to all those who religiously hold on to their Blackberrys for want of tactile feedback on the keypads of the latest smart touch phones and tablets. Tactus’ technology lets you summon up a raised keyboard right out of your flat screen, just like that.

To watch the video and be amazed, click here.

What makes it tick: Giving you “buttons when you need them, gone when you don’t”, as the Tactus website says, the technology provides an additional dimension to your touch screen interface with “app-controlled, transparent physical buttons that rise up from the touch screen surface on demand”. And when you’re done typing, the buttons recede into the surface, restoring your flat screen.

The technology: The Tactus Tactile LayerTM panel, covered by 22 granted and pending patents, uses leading-edge microfluidic technology (where a network of micro-channels etched or moulded on materials like silicon, glass or polymers control the flow of liquids or gas). The tactile layer is a flat, completely transparent dynamic layer fixed atop the touch sensor and display. When activated, the panel shape-shifts into buttons of a specific height, size and firmness, which you can use just as you would a keyboard.

Simple to use: An app controls when the buttons come up and when they recede. When the buttons are summoned, the user can feel, press down or rest their fingers on them. When the task of typing is over, the buttons sink back and become invisible, restoring your large flat screen for viewing. Featured using a case for an iPad mini at CES 2014, Tactus shows what the future of touch devices would be.

Problems it solves: The Tactus technology gives actual tactile feedback while using a touch screen keypad; allows fingers to rest in between typing—instead of hovering over a flat keypad, which results in finger muscle fatigue; the physical buttons potentially increase speed and reduce mistakes while typing.

Future of the technology: Soon, Tactus technology (to be licensed to OEDs – original equipment manufacturers) on keypads will not only become the norm on smart touch screen phones, tablets and other computers, it will create physical interfaces for gaming, and can be integrated off screen too, such as on the back of a camera instead of buttons or say a car door opening panel. Besides, microfluidic technology, as such, has applications in other fields like medicine and cell biology, as well as for making chemical micro-reactors and micro fuel cells.

What a startup can learn from Tactus:

  • How to revolutionise an existing platform, in this case touch screens
  • How to re-invent what had almost become obsolete—Tactus is bringing back buttons in a whole new exciting avatar
  • How to retain the integrity of a product, while improving its functions greatly—touch phones using Tactus would look no different in their normal state, except when using the otherwise invisible keypad