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Phorm is a morphing touchscreen with tactile finger guides for typing

Tablets are awesome, but their keyboards? Not so much. Touchscreen keyboards are fine for little tasks, like entering in passwords or leaving yourself a quick note — but when it comes time to enter in a big chunk of text, they’re not exactly ideal.

The problem basically comes down to their lack of tactility. Your fingers┬ácan’t feel where one key ends and another begins, so you’ve got to rely on your eyeballs to keep track of each button. This inhibits your ability to look at the actual words you’re typing, which leads to more errors. Looking at the words doesn’t help either — stare too long and your fingers tend to drift and lose their place, and then you’re back to making typos again.

phorm keyboardSo what’s the solution? Most people who compose a lot of text on their tablets just spring for an external keyboard attachment of some sort, but now there might be a better way. Instead of forcing you to attach a new keyboard altogether, the Phorm case creates an array of raised bumps on your screen — providing (presumably) just enough tactile feedback for you to type without looking.

This definitely isn’t the first time someone’s taken a stab at this problem, but here’s the kicker — Phorm’s bumps can be raised and lowered at the push of a button, so you can have bumps when you’re typing, and go back to smooth screen when it’s time to play Fruit Ninja. Oh yeah, and it doesn’t use any electricity either.

How is this possible? Clever design. The case consists of two main parts: a backplate, and a transparent microfluidic front plate. When you move the slider on the back, it pushes fluid up through tiny holes in the front screen, causing the bumps to form in specific spots. Flip the slider back and the fluid retreats, leaving you with a smooth capacitive touchscreen again.

Pretty slick, right? Well it gets better. Phorm’s creators are running a crowdfunding campaign through Tilt, and are currently offering pre-orders for $100 — about 50 bucks cheaper than what the case is expected to retail for later this year.