Check Out How A Microfluidic On-Screen Keyboard Will Work

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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.

Source: The Verge
Via: Into Mobile

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About The Author
Stephen Schenck
Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bitsRead more about Stephen Schenck!