Among the challenges for product designers today is keeping keyboards efficient and user-friendly as they are grafted onto smaller and smaller devices. Another consideration is the number of uniquely different key types that must be used for certain devices, but which are ineffective with others. For instance, no matter how whiz-bang wonderful the new projected keyboards are, they are entirely inappropriate for use with smartphones. On the other hand, a gadget that projects a full-size, fully functional keyboard on any flat surface would be a fabulous addition to an iPad rental. Similarly, a smartphone’s virtual keyboard is pointless on a laptop, even an ultrabook touchscreen, since there is plenty of room for a conventional one.
There are many ways to “input” data into your devices from voice to handwriting recognition, and an ever-expanding array of inventive keyboards. In 2011, Tactus Technology in Fremont, Calif., announced it was developing an entirely new and special kind of keyboard, based on “microfluidics.” Among the layers of a touch screen is a layout of tiny channels, shaped like buttons (or “chiclet“ keys) that fill with non-toxic gel to create a tactile response. So what? So how about doubling typing speed? With points of reference now available by touch, experienced typists, whether using fingers or thumbs or both, can increase productivity immensely.
Dynamic surface keyboards in the near future?
The idea was not just to make “a keyboard or a button technology, but really to make a fully dynamic surface,” says Micah Yairi, Tactus co-founder. This means that there would be a standard QWERTY layout when writing an email, a numeric pad for dialing numbers or using a calculator app, and even app-specific “tiles” for invoking multi-app, multi-step processes (remember “macros”?). Tactus—the winner of the Innovation Zone Best Prototype award from the Society for Information Display—insists it will be in production by the start of 2014. However, executives were mum for most of 2013 about what partnerships had been inked.
The company has posted no news since July 2013, although there were press releases in August, September, and October. In the most recent, Tactus proudly touts its success in securing additional international patents, but doesn’t say when the product might appear in a working product. The tireless geeks at Engadget got their hands on a Tactus-equipped tablet prototype and gave it a thumbs up. That was in January. In February, at the MIT Technology Review website, David Zax granted that Tactus keyboards could help the visually impaired, but still concluded “that the mass market has largely made its peace with virtual keyboards.” All we can do now is wait and see.
One thing you don’t have to wait for is getting expert help with your technology and production needs. One call to (877) 266-7725 or a visit to our Quick Rental Quote page will get you the best technology rental gear.