Despite great software, smart predictive features, and endless customizations, some of us just can’t get behind the idea of a fully virtual on-screen keyboard, instead hunting-down what few smartphone models offer the luxury of a hardware keyboard. Manufacturers have introduced haptic feedback in an attempt to make the experience with a virtual keyboard a little more familiar to users making the transition, but it’s still a big change. That’s what makes the potential so big for screens with embedded microfluidic keys, a technology we’ve heard about for some time now. It’s just starting to get to the workable phase, and Tactus Technology has a system on display at SID Display Week 2012 to show us just what we have to look forward to.
The Tactus system attaches a membrane to a phone’s touchscreen embedded with tiny channels that allow the phone to pump-in fluid that “inflates” regions to create raised protrusions on the screen. Line those bumps up with an on-screen keyboard, and you’ve got the basics for a hybrid hardware/virtual keyboard.
Right now, there are plenty of limitations with the technology. For instance, it’s still the phone’s capacitive sensor that’s detecting your fingertips, so unlike a mechanical keyboard, there’s no direct connection between touching a key and it registering your input. You also won’t get the same sort of key travel that you do with a hardware keyboard, even on a phone, which could take some getting used to.
Maybe the biggest limitation is that right now this is an all-or-nothing system, so you can’t raise some keys and not others. That creates a problem if you’re trying to design a phone with a microfluidic keyboard that works in both landscape and portrait modes.
Still, this looks like a promising technology, and while it may not be ready for deployment in a commercial device just yet, we’re hopeful that it will get there as engineers have further time to refine their systems.
Via: Into Mobile