A touchscreen-crafting company has created a new type of display that sees physical buttons bubbling out of the usually-flat surface.
US-based Tactus reckons its blistering screen adds no extra thickness to standard touch-sensitive panels, as it replaces an existing layer within regular touchscreens.
That thin layer deforms to create buttons or shapes of a certain height, size and even firmness. "Users can feel, press down and interact with these physical buttons just like they would use keys on a keyboard," Tactus promises. Once dismissed, the buttons become flat again.
Tactus boss Craig Ciesla says the company got started in 2007, looking at the first iPhone, but wanting to preserve the physical feel of a BlackBerry's Qwerty keyboard.
Tactus has shown off the tech running on a prototype Android tablet. I can see it proving popular, especially when it comes to playing games on a touchscreen gadget -- a common complaint is that on-screen buttons offer none of the physical feedback gamers get from a traditional gamepad.
The company isn't limiting its scope to smart phones and tablets, also mentioning ebook readers, remote controls, vehicle displays and medical devices as potential recipients of its bubbling panel.
Existing mobiles try to offer some physical feedback by vibrating a tiny bit when you tap on-screen keys. That helps, but I know some people who don't like the sensation, which does make holding a smart phone feel like cradling a terrified mouse.
Those days may soon be behind us. Tactus says its first touchscreen will be ready in the middle of 2013.
The technology is certainly intriguing, so here's hoping a major manufacturer or two has taken note. Would you like to see Tactus' tech in every mobile and tablet? Or are touchscreens better left flat? Let your opinions bubble their way into the comments, or rise up on our Facebook wall.
Image credit: Tactus