New touchscreen allows physical buttons to appear and disappear on command [video]

Tactus Technology Tactile Layer touchscreen

The smartphone keyboard is back. No, RIM hasn’t released a new BlackBerry. This is something far better and more futuristic than we could have imagined.

At the SID Display Week in Boston today, Tactus Technology unveiled its new tactile touchscreen technology, which allow physical buttons to rise up, or disappear from the screen instantaneously. The buttons can take nearly any shape, which Tactus says will allow device manufacturers to create gadgets with entirely new form factors. The company boasts that this is the “world’s first” such technology to provide this next-generation feature.

The Tactus Tactile Layer is not itself a touchscreen. Instead, it is a a thin component that fits over top of the touchscreens already on smartphones and tablets. Tactus says the Tactile Layer, which must be installed and optimized by device makers, is thin enough that it does not add any noticable girth to a smartphone or tablet.

tactus-schematic

The 1 mm-thick Tactile Layer contains tiny channels that contain a non-toxic fluid. A small internal controller then increased the amount of pressure in certain portions of the Tactile Layer’s liquid, causing them to rise into buttons of whatever shape.

“When triggered, the thin layer deforms and buttons or shapes of a specific height, size and firmness appear on the surface of the screen,” writes Tactus in a press release. “Users can feel, press down and interact with these physical buttons just like they would use keys on a keyboard. The buttons recede into the surface and become invisible when they are no longer needed.”

Tactus also announced a partnership with Touch Revolution, a unit of TPK Holding Co., which is the largest manufacturer of capacitive touchscreens in the world. The company expects it to arrive in a wide range of gadgets, from smartphones and tablets, to remote controls, gaming devices, and even medical technology. Tactus says it will begin shipping its Tactile Layer to device manufacturers in mid-2013.

Watch a video of the Tactile Layer in action below:

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

Here are 20 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up while on the go (or for some great small gift ideas), we've rounded up 20 must-have gadgets. You'll find everything from a mini gaming controller to a folding Bluetooth keyboard.
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for March 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for March 2018.
Mobile

Guard your Galaxy with the best Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus screen protectors

The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are two of the best phones to ever grace this planet -- but the screen still isn't brick-proof. Here are the best Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus screen protectors to keep yours safe.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.
Business

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.
Computing

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.
Computing

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 
Business

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.