If you’re not impressed by what’s been going on — or not going on — with smartphone technology over the past few years, good news: It looks like the days of incremental devie upgrades are numbered. More consumers seem to think that faster processors, thinner chassis, bigger screens and better camera just don’ it. And, yes, I’m looking at you, Apple.
But a touchscreen with on-demand physical buttons? Oh yes, please. At CES 2013, California-based Tactus showed off an invention that could raise physical buttons from the screen when needed for tasks like typing or game-playing. When you moved on to something else, the buttons would quickly subside.
This type of feature resonates nicely with the ideology of full touchscreen devices — to have input controls adapt to the content on the device, not the other way round. More importantly, it solves the most pressing issue of touchscreen devices: A lack of tactile feedback. Indeed, that feedback is one reason some people swear by their Blackberries.
While Tactus’s team showed off only the raised keyboards, the technology, called “micro-fluidics,” is adaptable to third-party apps and games. People who play high-end mobile games will understand how annoying it is to rub your fingers on a flat screen and tap inaccurately while trying to concentrate on the play itself.
Numerous projects on Kickstarter aim to improve mobile gaming experience by somehow incorporating physical buttons, through a casing, for example. Tactus’s technology can provide a similar experience without adding much hassle or weight.
Besides, on-demand physical controls will make touchscreens much better game controllers when the game being mirrored on a television. In fact, that alone would make for a really powerful portable gaming device.
Tactus CEO Craig Ciesla told TechCrunch that the company has a number of partners that will integrate the feature into consumer devices, though he didn’t reveal the partners by name.
Regardless, mobile devices are about the get sexy again.