New Disappearing Keyboard For iPad Provides 'Physical Buttons' On-Screen

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By Pavithra Rathinavel | April 22, 2014 3:22 PM EST

Tactus Technology, a start-up company, is making waves in the tech industry with its latest accessory constructing transparent keyboard buttons on top of any touchscreen display.

REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook speaks about the new iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retnia display during an Apple event in San Francisco, California October 22, 2013.

According to Business Insider, the company works with Wistron, a Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer, to create shape-shifting iPad case that can pop-out physical keyboard buttons out of the flat display.

Price And Release Date

The prototype of this accessory was showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The company also got a $13.5 million Series B round of funding. The expected price range of this case could be between $80 and $100. This accessory is expected to ship later this year.

Mechanism

The mechanism to form those physical or tactile buttons has been made with the help of a certain liquid (micro-fluid) that fills and forms the physical buttons when required on the device's screen.

Apparently, there are two different models of the same tactile keyboard, a thin display layer that gives the look of a sheer screen protector allowing the liquid to pass through it, and the other model is a hard-shell version, along with storing the liquid to form the physical buttons. It also doubles as a screen protector for the device. The models are expected to have a push button on the sides.

Upon pushing/toggling the button, the transparent tactile keyboard would appear on the space where the standard keyboard is located. Notably, the keyboard can appear and disappear instantly.

This technology would lead the way to many similar accessories for other devices like Android and Windows. Also, Wistron could pack the tech into future devices by replacing the Gorilla Glass screen with a Tactus display allowing micro fluids to flow through it. Such devices could arrive next year.

The Wistron patnership is going to help Tactus because Wistron has experience in producing devices for companies like Apple, Acer and BlackBerry. The company has the capacity to develop accessories in large quantities.

Future Plans

Wistron plans to add this tech into future devices by replacing the regular Gorilla Glass screen with a Tactus screen display, which will allow the microfluids to flow through it. This can be expected to arrive in 2015.

According to Business Insider, "Craig Ciesla and Micah Yairi came up with the idea for Tactus in 2008 when Yairi was working with a company making micro-fluids for medical devices."

"Ciesla, who had always used a BlackBerry, had problems in typing with the released iPhone's touch-screen and longed for his keyboard back. The pair decided to try to see if they could use micro-fluids to create a dynamic keyboard. Six years later, they're ready to ship their first product," the Web site added.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Robert Galbraith / )
Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook speaks about the new iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retnia display during an Apple event in San Francisco, California October 22, 2013.
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