back to article Touchscreens to get finger friendly

Haptic technologies are so advanced these days that we will soon see feel touchscreen displays make physical buttons appear and disappear when needed. Well, those are the claims of Tactus Technology, which has such a product in the works that it hopes to see fitted in devices as early as next year. Tactus Technology The …


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  1. Maxson

    I know it's a bit gimmicky but...

    So is pretty much everything involved with smart phones, I really, really like this, the bit I hate about my smartphone is the part where I'm just bumping my thumbs off a flat surface with no identifier of what I'm touching outside of my phone vibrating gently.

    1. Adam Nealis
      Thumb Up

      Re: I know it's a bit gimmicky but...

      I don't think it's gimmicky at all.

      If it works as I expect, when applied to tablets it should reduce the need for a separate keyboard and therefore a track pad.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I know it's a bit gimmicky but...

      I prefer a quiet keyboard that way the wife don't know what I'm upto!

  2. auburnman

    Can't see this taking off. If you want tactile, get a phone with a keyboard. Off the top of my head I can imagine issues with wear and tear on repeatedly pressed screens and battery life issues (you think leaving the Wifi on drains power, wait until your phone has moving parts!)

    You never know, it might be popular; but it just smacks of a solution looking for a problem to me.

    1. Ian Yates

      I couldn't have more opposite thoughts to you on this: being able to truly touch-type on my Sensation would be amazing! I'm making the assumption here that the capacitive sensing is disabled while the "keys" are protruding.

      Unless I'm mistaken, the "moving parts" is actually just a slight expansion of some fluid when an electrical charge is applied, so battery drain should be pretty minimal; probably less than the existing moving part: vibration.

      1. auburnman

        Fair points well made; the more I think about it the more I think I may have jumped the gun in dissing it. I still don't think it's right for phones though; maybe for slates or those fancy laptops that have a touchscreen where you expect a keyboard. If they can prove me wrong and sort out a phone that works well with it, more power to 'em.

        Need an icon for looking sheepish after an overreaction.

        1. Mike Moyle

          @ auburnman

          Admitting that you might have overreacted in an El Reg forum post...?

          You're not from around here, are you? <gr>

          1. auburnman

            Re: @ auburnman

            A moment of madness. In future I will remember to never back down and immediately compare anyone who disagrees with me to Hitler.

        2. Annihilator


          You seem to be confining your thoughts to it being a fixed keyboard in function. Consider that *any* button of any size and location can be created at will and the possibilities open up!

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I think there's a use for it in the world of phones..

          When typing using a keyboard, most people with a bit of experience can find their way around with their eyes closed with reasonable levels of accuracy. Not so with a flat touchscreen. Not necessarily a problem you may think, but the resultant effect is that with a touchscreen you're constantly looking at what you're doing, and your brain is constantly having to process the visual feedback to guide your digits. The effort of doing so can be pretty demanding for some people, and it seems to be significantly higher than processing haptic feedback.. I see it with a friend of mine who had Parkinsons. She can type pretty effectively using a keyboard. Not super-speed, but more than well enough to get by. But on her iPhone it can be a real struggle, as she has to process this feedback without any senses other than sight being involved. And there's little delineation between keys etc, so mis-typing becomes more common as it's harder to keep one's digits in the same place.

          Similarly for people with reduced vision, touchscreens can be a total shitemare.

          Sure - I hear the "just buy a qwerty phone" cries already. And yeah, I'm pretty sure that's the world we want.. one where people with diminished abilities have reduced choice in areas where we could engineer solutions to provide them with the same choices as others. Shit, why do we even bother with accessible websites anyway? Why don't those pesky crips go read a book or phone a "norm" to look it up for them?

        4. P. Lee

          Agreed - anywhere where the buttons are too small this would be bad. Swype works well on a phone but probably wouldn't be good for a tablet as the distances are too far. However, for a tablet-sized touchscreen keyboard, this would be great.

          I'd like to see a tablet with a tiny swype keyboard on the right for use with your thumb like a phone, just to see if it works well.

          p.s. we have a D'oh! icon

        5. cs94njw

          I think you're right. When something starts to get a keyboard, it is assessed for usability and how nice it is to use. And in this case we're not talking about a clicky keyboard or something with a solid touch.

          I reckon it won't feel that nice to type on. It'll be too soft to know when you've pressed a key.

          Love the idea, although they didn't show unusual shapes for buttons, e.g. circles, hexagons, etc. Want it to work, think it might not.

      2. Geoff Campbell Silver badge


        It's obviously early days, but I'd be very surprised if you could touch-type on these keys. If I'm reading it right, the keys are immobile, and still capacitive, so that touching them will register a key-press. If this is the case, I'm very much afraid this looks rather useless, if extremely cool. Still, we shall see.


  3. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    And gaming..

    The first time since, umm ever, a game of whack-a-mole can become interesting. You could also move objects around on such a screen (low weight, like ping pong balls or chess pieces) - this tech may have application beyond screen keyboards.

    Last but not least, you could conceivably create an interface for blind people with this. Awesome!

    1. P. Lee
      Thumb Up

      Re: And gaming..

      Braille ebooks?

      That would be something.

  4. bluesxman

    RE: And gaming..

    From the video the raised areas look like fixed locations, presumably only switchable between portrait and landscape if your keyboard layouts overlap appropriately.

    As such, I wouldn't get your hopes up about smoothly sliding a bump around the screen just yet.

  5. Anonymous Coward 101

    Blackberry Storm

    Didn't that device have a 'clickable' touch screen, that didn't work very well?

    1. Darryl

      Re: Blackberry Storm

      Yeah, but the whole screen 'clicked' and all it really managed to do was give users sore fingers from pressing the screen down instead of just tapping.

    2. Andrew James

      Re: Blackberry Storm

      It did, but that was pretty horrific. Essentially just a plastic screen over the touch panel, with a slight gap in between. You apply pressure to the plastic and it deforms allowing you to "click" onto the touch panel.

      My sister had one for two years on a contract. I tried to warn her off it at the time of purchase. She absolutely hated the thing.

  6. Some Beggar

    Haptically ribbed for her pleasure.

    (I'm claiming first dibs on this tag line)

  7. Michael Shelby

    Forget about phones...

    I'm looking forward to having this technology in my car. Touchscreen consoles look great but are unsafe. It'd be nice to be able to feel some of the more common controls. I miss being able to turn on the A/C without taking my eyes off the road.

  8. Old Handle

    Very Skeptical

    If they could summon and dismiss buttons on the screen at will, and without messing up the display, that would indeed be very impressive, and probably even useful. But I'm suspicious that all we're seeing is a very crude mock-up that can't do anything close to that. Notice how the buttons always appear and disappear all at once, as if they can't even be controlled individually. I suspect its something embarrassingly simple like a single rigid plastic frame with holes covered by a membrane and oil behind it. Okay, raising buttons in an all-or-noting fashion in predefined positions could still be useful, I guess. But the final flaw, is that the buttons would be visible even when unraised, making it unsuitable for displaying any other type of content there. So basically, you might as well just use physical keys.

    Of course it's possible they've got something way better than that, but why wouldn't they show off its full abilities then?

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