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Cellphones Displays Science Technology

Buttons That Morph Out of Your Touchscreen 134

kkleiner writes "Wouldn't it be awesome if our tablets and smartphones could have buttons that morphed out of the touchscreen, and then went away again when we didn't need them? It sounds like magic, but now it is reality. Created by Tactus Technology, a Fremont, California-based start-up, Tactus is a deformable layer that sits on top of a touchscreen sensor and display. 'The layer is about 0.75mm to 1mm thick, and at its top sits a deformable, clear layer 200 nm thick. Beneath the clear layer a fluid travels through micro-channels and is pushed up through tiny holes, deforming the clear layer to create buttons or shapes. The buttons or patterns remain for however long they are needed, just for a few seconds or for hours when you’re using your iPad to write that novel. And because the fluid is trapped inside the buttons, they can remain for however long without additional power consumption. They come or go pretty quickly, taking only a second to form or disappear.'"
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Buttons That Morph Out of Your Touchscreen

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  • Scratches (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ByteSlicer ( 735276 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @05:30AM (#40230167)
    One of the things I like about current generation smart phones/tablets is that they're very resilient to scratching, using a hardened glass screen.

    This looks like a soft rubbery layer on top, so my guess is that it would be quite vulnerable to scratching and tearing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @05:33AM (#40230179)

    I agree, it looks a tad ugly. Though so did the first UIs for operating systems, and the first of a lot of other things. The first ipod looks fugly now!

    However, think of all the visually impaired people who'd benefit from this, being able to introduce a dynamic braille would help a lot of people I'm sure. Just because you don't like it in blue doesn't mean everyone else will hate it too or find no benefit to the practical use, even if it doesn't look like the ritz of technology.

  • by macraig ( 621737 ) <> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @05:43AM (#40230219)

    They don't look cheap nor cheesy to me. The buttons in the demos simply don't look like keys on a keyboard, which is apparently the comparison you are making. The buttons demonstrated may not be the only form they can take. Tactus has a photo of a "remote" that appears to have squared angular buttons. Regardless, you are dismissing the primary reason for having the pseudo-buttons in favor of a rather shallow and pretentious one based on appearance. The purpose of the buttons isn't to look slick, it's to provide the otherwise absent tactile response.

  • Re:Oh great... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @05:49AM (#40230245) Homepage

    Now this means when I break my phone I can't use the cracked screen anymore.

    Talk about whining for the sake of whining...

    According to TFA the top layer is flexible, so for all we know these screens might be a more durable alternative in the future? It's too early to tell for sure, but something like this is more or less the holy grail of dynamically configurable user interfaces. I hope they make it work.

  • by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @05:49AM (#40230247) Homepage
    One area this could be a huge benefit would be in-car touchscreens. Right now, the massive rush to touchscreens in cars mean that driving interfaces are suddenly much less safe. They REQUIRE you to use your eyes to locate a region on the screen, and so it diverts your attention away from the road. A tactile touch screen would allow a flexible display to be operated by feel alone, a big safety improvement.
  • Re:Keyboards (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cbope ( 130292 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @05:52AM (#40230251)

    Not for me it won't. Try to imagine how tiring it will be to type on a non-mechanical keyboard with almost zero feedback. Also, note the resurgence of high-quality mechanical keyboards that have appeared in the last couple years that use high quality Cherry switches. Except for special applications, the standard keyboard isn't going anywhere when you need a large amount of text input.

  • Oh FFS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 16Chapel ( 998683 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @06:00AM (#40230275)
    Started the video in TFA:

    "For years, people believed the world was flat...".

    Stop, close page. Great idea, ridiculous marketing.
  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @06:02AM (#40230285)

    It strikes me you can only get tactile response if you touch them, and if you touch a touchscreen, you've operated it.

    I wonder what the answer to this issue is.

  • Re:Oh great... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @06:22AM (#40230361)

    A screen can break and still be useful, if ugly. I'm not sure why you'd bring up reality distortion yet not be aware of this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @07:18AM (#40230573)

    They seem to have addressed the issue of the third dimension, but that's only one part of what makes a button a button. Does it "click"? Is there tactile feedback? Or does a single 'brush' of a fingertip across a raised button trigger the interaction?

    Buttons aren't just lumps. They're clickable, and they need to offer resistance and then "give way" in order to constitute touch feedback. I'm not seeing that here,

  • by decora ( 1710862 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @07:21AM (#40230589) Journal

    last i heard, using an iphone while you are blind is pretty annoying.

  • Re:Oh great... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @11:21AM (#40232833)

    since when has a broken thing been a usable thing...

    i know the Apple (the only phone i've ever known to crack) reality distortion field is powerful but really, if it's broken it's no longer functioning.

    I use a broken iPod Touch as the music source in my car. No need to use the touch screen since the car's head unit controls it. Bonus, I got it for free since it was smashed.

    My dad also used his screen-smashed iPhone for a year or two before getting an upgrade. A wrench dropped on it will do that. Worked just fine, even with the cracks.

    I also used a broken iBook G3 600 as a file server for a while. The screen and hinge assembly were totally busted, so it was no good as a laptop without a repair (which was easy enough, but I had already replaced it with a Powerbook at the time), so it served duty as a low-power fanless (it had a fan, but have you ever heard the fan on a white iBook come on? I swear it's not connected), silent fileserver. So, broken but still functioning.

    What? Are you of the generation where all consumer goods are disposable?

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury