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Tactus Technology display brings physical buttons to the touchscreen


June 7, 2012

Startup Tactus Technology has developed a touchscreen display with buttons that can rise out of the flat surface of its screen (Photo: Tactus Technology)

Startup Tactus Technology has developed a touchscreen display with buttons that can rise out of the flat surface of its screen (Photo: Tactus Technology)

Image Gallery (3 images)

California startup Tactus Technology recently caused plenty of "oohs" and "aahs" at SID Display Week 2012. The prototype touchscreen the company presented featured buttons that can rise out of the flat surface of the screen at the user's whim, disappearing completely once they are no longer needed.

Beneath the surface of the screen are a number of microscopic channels that can be prearranged by the manufacturer, and a small amount of a clear oily substance. When the physical buttons are "switched on" by the user, the clear substance is pumped through the channels and the solid buttons magically rise out of the display. When the keyboard is switched off, the buttons disappear completely, leaving the user with a full-sized touchscreen device.

The solution appears to be more effective than previous attempts at implementing such a device. Other companies have come up with their own concepts, but the one showcased here might well be the first to reach the consumer market - the company says it will be ready by mid-2013.

In this early concept, the microchannels need to be in a prearranged pattern, such as a standard QWERTY keyboard, and cannot change their configuration - they can only appear or disappear, but the shape and position of the buttons is fixed. However, the company says the display will eventually be able to morph into a variety of different patterns that could be optimized to specific software applications.

The system is also reported to have very low power consumption. Craig Ciesla, CEO of the startup, says his team expects "less than two percent battery drain for the whole day," although such figures will obviously vary based on battery capacity and the size of the display.

While smartphones and tablets are the obvious target market, the company said the technology could also find use in the control panels of production cars.

The video below illustrates the touchscreen at work.

Source: Tactus Technology via The Verge

About the Author
Dario Borghino Dario studied software engineering at the Polytechnic University of Turin. When he isn't writing for Gizmag he is usually traveling the world on a whim, working on an AI-guided automated trading system, or chasing his dream to become the next European thumbwrestling champion. All articles by Dario Borghino

This is one of those "why bother" ideas. all it does is add to the expence of an item. If it poped up in brail, that would be worth while to many people though.


great! I don't like the smooth surface, with my big fingers it hard for me to use my phone and other devices I can't wait .

Jay Finke

I wondering how exactly this is going to work. It says there are "channels" with a fluid thats pumped inside, but unless I'm missing something, there will be one of 2 sacrafices made. 1.) the screen will be "softer" to the touch like some type of semi rigid vinyl or 2.) it will remain completely solid/rigid (like a pane of glass) but that would require "cutouts" and no matter how small, it would leave noticeable seems.

The picture makes it look like option number 2, but the description makes it sound like option number 1. IMO, neither is acceptable. I remember some of the older lower quality touchscreens from back in the day before anyone ever thought of a "smart phone" and those "soft" touch screens are horrible. As for option number 2, whats the point of having these beautiful high resolution screens only to see seems?


I think this is so cool! Touchscreens are useful but buttons are always a plus when texting. I think this technology could also be useful for adapting technology to Braille for blind people.

Ben McGuinness
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