The Consumer Electronic Show might not have the clout it used to possess a decade back, but the nearly fifty year old trade show is still capable of throwing up products and prototypes that offer a glimpse of the future. One such product on display in this year’s CES is the Tactus touchscreen.
Unlike most other touchscreen manufacturers of the day, Tactus isn’t attempting to compete on resolution, pixel density, vibrancy, etc. The distinguishing feature of the Tactus touchscreen is its ability to morph into a keyboard. Tactus’ Tactile Layer technology replaces the conventional cover glass of modern displays with a thin, flat, smooth and transparent cover layer varying in thickness from about 0.75mm to 1mm. This cover has multiple-layers. The top layer consists of an optically clear polymer, while the bottom layer consists of a number of channels filled with fluid. The fluid’s refractive index is same as the refractive index of its surrounding components, which makes it fully and evenly transparent when light from the display passes through. There are a number of micro-holes between the top layer and the bottom layer. Increasing the pressure of the fluid layer causes the fluid to push up through the holes and against the top polymer layer, making it expand in pre-defined locations. The state and shape of the buttons can be controlled by the software.
Right now Tactus’ chief value proposition is being able to offer true tactile feedback on touchscreen keyboards. However, the technology can be possibly used for more demanding requirements including gaming. I don’t mind my touchscreen keyboard, since I love Swyping on my phone. However, I would love to have a tactile game controller built right into my touchscreen handset.