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Buttons That Morph Out of Your Touchscreen

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the i-thought-we-only-needed-one-button dept.

Cellphones 134

kkleiner writes "Wouldn't it be awesome if our tablets and smartphones could have buttons that morphed out of the touchscreen, and then went away again when we didn't need them? It sounds like magic, but now it is reality. Created by Tactus Technology, a Fremont, California-based start-up, Tactus is a deformable layer that sits on top of a touchscreen sensor and display. 'The layer is about 0.75mm to 1mm thick, and at its top sits a deformable, clear layer 200 nm thick. Beneath the clear layer a fluid travels through micro-channels and is pushed up through tiny holes, deforming the clear layer to create buttons or shapes. The buttons or patterns remain for however long they are needed, just for a few seconds or for hours when you’re using your iPad to write that novel. And because the fluid is trapped inside the buttons, they can remain for however long without additional power consumption. They come or go pretty quickly, taking only a second to form or disappear.'"

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134 comments

Oh great... (2, Interesting)

Apothem (1921856) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230125)

Now this means when I break my phone I can't use the cracked screen anymore.

Re:Oh great... (4, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230245)

Now this means when I break my phone I can't use the cracked screen anymore.

Talk about whining for the sake of whining...

According to TFA the top layer is flexible, so for all we know these screens might be a more durable alternative in the future? It's too early to tell for sure, but something like this is more or less the holy grail of dynamically configurable user interfaces. I hope they make it work.

Re:Oh great... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230397)

Now this means when I break my phone I can't use the cracked screen anymore.

Talk about whining for the sake of whining...

According to TFA the top layer is flexible, so for all we know these screens might be a more durable alternative in the future? It's too early to tell for sure, but something like this is more or less the holy grail of dynamically configurable user interfaces. I hope they make it work.

In your opinion, not in mine. In MY opinion, it's the Devil itself along with the Microsoft "ribbon" style toolbars and other context-sensitive buttons that disappear when I still want them around.

I could see this technology being useful for other things, for example a brail touch-screen. But at least in the context of the article, I simply Do Not Want.

Re:Oh great... (0)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230523)

Now this means when I break my phone I can't use the cracked screen anymore.

Talk about whining for the sake of whining...

According to TFA the top layer is flexible, so for all we know these screens might be a more durable alternative in the future? It's too early to tell for sure, but something like this is more or less the holy grail of dynamically configurable user interfaces. I hope they make it work.

Sorry, but unless this top layer provides a significant layer of protection (which would encroach on a considerable and growing market for screen repair), this is really nothing more than a solution without a problem. Sure, a cool concept, but a rather unnecessary one.

The touchscreen itself was the "holy grail" of interfaces, and this "morphing out of the screen" concept is hardly new when you consider web advertising. I'm pretty certain that group has figured how to make something "pop-up" on a screen for an annoying length of time, only to go away when you force it to. Yup, pretty sure I've seen that once or twice before.

Honestly, I think if they were trying to capture that "I miss my buttons" crowd, that boat sailed already after a decade of smartphones and tablets with flat interfaces. Guess we'll wait and see.

blind people dont have problems? (4, Insightful)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230589)

last i heard, using an iphone while you are blind is pretty annoying.

Re:blind people dont have problems? (3)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230615)

last i heard, using an iphone while you are blind is pretty annoying.

So is the rather unbelievable concept that a blind person would spend $500 on a device today with ZERO tactile feedback (although I see your point about future potential).

Re:blind people dont have problems? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40231127)

we have a blind guy at work that uses an iPhone... something which i never tire of reminding him about.

Re:blind people dont have problems? (1, Flamebait)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40232687)

What are you reminding him about: that he's blind or that he has an iPhone?

... or perhaps you are his boss and you never tire of reminding him to get off the phone and "get back to work!". That's it; isn't it? He's blind, and finances are tight, because his child desperately needs that operation. His wife is at home, looking after their new baby girl, and is trying to pitch in by taking in the neighbour's laundry, even though the doctor told her she needs to stay in bed and get plenty of rest. Childbirth took a lot out of her. He's glad that it is summer now, because the furnace doesn't work very well, at least, not well enough to fend off the winter chill in the drafty old shack that he calls a home. Once his child has the operation, he'll be able to save some money, and fix the leak in the roof, and maybe replace the rotten floorboards by the cracked window. There may even be enough to have the electricity turned back on.

So here he is, consoling his wife, telling her that things are going to work out... somehow. All they have to do is hang on for just a while longer... and you barge in and start yelling at him, calling him a blind fanboi and ordering him back to work, all the while taking some sick sadistic pleasure from it.

Re:blind people dont have problems? (1)

gsgriffin (1195771) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231337)

They have finally figured out how to bring porn to the blind.

Re:blind people dont have problems? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40232747)

you heard wrong. the iPhone (and all iOS devices) are actually some of the
most readily accessible devices in mainstream use.
see: http://svan.ca/blog/2012/blind/ and related links found there

Re:blind people dont have problems? (1)

Luyseyal (3154) | more than 2 years ago | (#40232923)

Mod parent up.

We hosted an accessibility conference [knowbility.org] a few weeks ago and the iPhone was the clear winner as most usable device. Is it 100%? No, of course not. But it is far ahead of Android, though Google has been working on it.

Haptics would certainly make it even more awesome. Can you imagine using maps with haptics for elevation? For the blind, you could have different heights to represent different features (e.g., highways might be deeper than side roads), all with Braille labels. That would be sweet.

Anyhow, Knobility is an awesome organization. Check it out if you're into hacking the Web for non-standard users.

-l

Re:Oh great... (1)

Phics (934282) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231673)

Maybe the accelerometer could "auto-inflate" the screen like an airbag when the phone sensed that it was being dropped. Hard disks in laptops already park drive heads using the same technique.

A raised bubble is not the same as a button (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230573)

They seem to have addressed the issue of the third dimension, but that's only one part of what makes a button a button. Does it "click"? Is there tactile feedback? Or does a single 'brush' of a fingertip across a raised button trigger the interaction?

Buttons aren't just lumps. They're clickable, and they need to offer resistance and then "give way" in order to constitute touch feedback. I'm not seeing that here,

Re:A raised bubble is not the same as a button (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40231553)

If you combine it with proper haptic feedback, yes, it will click.

Re:A raised bubble is not the same as a button (1)

azadrozny (576352) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231707)

I think one of the prime reasons to raise the button is to give the user the ability to feel their way across the keypad. Think of how a touch typist can feel the edges of the keys to keep their fingers centered. Before touch screens I could dial my phone without looking. If a single "brush" of the key activates it, have you really improved anything? This is a technology to watch, but I am not sure if it is ready for prime-time.

Re:A raised bubble is not the same as a button (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231595)

I should think the system should be aware of how distended every button is at any given time. I don't think you'd get a "click" but it could definitely distinguish between a brush and a push.

Fail (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231251)

According to TFA the top layer is flexible, so for all we know these screens might be a more durable alternative in the future?

They don't mention what the flexible layer is, but that it is 200nm thick. For comparison your regular plastic wrap is 11um thick. That's over 50 times thicker than the layer they're putting on the screen. So lets assume it's something stronger than polypropylene. Aluminum would not be transparent (except in Star Trek), but thinking from a strength point of view the foil in your house is probably a little thicker than the plastic wrap, so lets go with the same 50x thicker than the film on these displays. Now imagine a little fluid filled bubble of aluminum foil 50x thinner than what we're used to, and think how long it is likely to last as a button on an electronic gadget.

The only hope I can imagine is if they're using something like this [popsci.com] which is stronger than kevlar. But without any information on the strength of this thing I have to remain skeptical.

Re:Oh great... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230259)

since when has a broken thing been a usable thing...

i know the Apple (the only phone i've ever known to crack) reality distortion field is powerful but really, if it's broken it's no longer functioning.

Re:Oh great... (1, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230361)

A screen can break and still be useful, if ugly. I'm not sure why you'd bring up reality distortion yet not be aware of this.

Re:Oh great... (1)

f3rret (1776822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230805)

since when has a broken thing been a usable thing...

i know the Apple (the only phone i've ever known to crack) reality distortion field is powerful but really, if it's broken it's no longer functioning.

My phone currently has a nice big crack running down the length of the screen and it functions just fine. As long as it is just the outer layer of glass that is cracked rather than the LCD underneath the glass then it is no problem.

Oh also it's not an Apple product.

Re:Oh great... (3, Insightful)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#40232833)

since when has a broken thing been a usable thing...

i know the Apple (the only phone i've ever known to crack) reality distortion field is powerful but really, if it's broken it's no longer functioning.

I use a broken iPod Touch as the music source in my car. No need to use the touch screen since the car's head unit controls it. Bonus, I got it for free since it was smashed.

My dad also used his screen-smashed iPhone for a year or two before getting an upgrade. A wrench dropped on it will do that. Worked just fine, even with the cracks.

I also used a broken iBook G3 600 as a file server for a while. The screen and hinge assembly were totally busted, so it was no good as a laptop without a repair (which was easy enough, but I had already replaced it with a Powerbook at the time), so it served duty as a low-power fanless (it had a fan, but have you ever heard the fan on a white iBook come on? I swear it's not connected), silent fileserver. So, broken but still functioning.

What? Are you of the generation where all consumer goods are disposable?

Re:Oh great... (3)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230307)

less likely to crack these than gorillawhateverblabla glass screens.

that's the biggest criticism these are getting.. because people are fixated on the thought that glass touch screens are teh shit. while they're really just shit.

Re:Oh great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230433)

"that's the biggest criticism these are getting.."

These can't get any criticism because they're vaporware. It's a product that doesn't exist, and will probably take decades before it's actually implemented in a phone. You should invest in Tactus since you apparently like wiping your bullshit called money.

Ya flexible is good (4, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230803)

That's the thing people forget about hardness is that it is a double edged sword. So they are right in their marketing that Gorilla Glass, and others like it, are very hard. So they are difficult to scratch and so on. Sounds strong... However what it really means is they are brittle. They have a higher failure point, but when they do fail they break pretty badly. For real strength, some flexibility, give, is what you actually want.

An area where you can see this is knives. Far and away most quality knives are steel, including those made for adverse environments. However a bit of research turns up that you can get advanced ceramic knives. They are much tougher, they don't need sharpening basically ever, and they are real easy to clean. Why then are these not the exclusive knives in all high end kitchens? For that matter, why aren't they the knives of choice whenever you can afford it (they are expensive)?

The reason is they are brittle, they don't bend. So they are "stronger" than steel in a sense, in that you put pressure on them that would cause a steel knife to flex and they hold fast. However you increase the pressure to a point and then they just fail, shatter, whereas the steel knife would still bend, and then come back. So they are brilliant for cutting vegetables, meats with no bones, and so on but they aren't going to replace your carving knife.

Same shit with phone screens. Ya the move from plastic to glass means that they are more resistant to minor scratches. However hard impacts, a proper plastic will do a better job of handling.

Re:Ya flexible is good (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231081)

Same shit with phone screens. Ya the move from plastic to glass means that they are more resistant to minor scratches. However hard impacts, a proper plastic will do a better job of handling.

I sincerely doubt that an impact that wouldn't do permanent damage to a plastic LCD screen would damage a gorilla glass screen. You're forgetting just how fragile those plastic dispays are. It's TRIVIAL to physically destroy the cells behind the plastic layer with a good impact. It doesn't crack your screen all to hell like a glass one, but the result is only very slightly different; either way, your screen is damaged and must be replaced for full functionality, and why would you want less than full functionality?

Re:Ya flexible is good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40231177)

you're right I want to crack my glass screen so I can slice up my face each time i make a call.

Re:Ya flexible is good (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231405)

you're right I want to crack my glass screen so I can slice up my face each time i make a call.

And I support you in that. See if you can slice up your fingers, too.

Re:Ya flexible is good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40231199)

The interesting thing about metal knives is they are both hard and brittle, and soft and flexible.

Annealing the whole blade, then hardening the edge, is one of the first tasks you do as an engineering student. As least for me it was.

If you don't harden the edge, it wont hold, um, the edge; you'll never be able to sharpen it.

Re:Oh great... (1)

phayes (202222) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230913)

I've had plastic screened phones in the past, no more. They get all scratched up and touch screen's sucked when new & just got worse over time.

Glass has properties that make it much better for touchscreens & is being improved all the time. The paper thin glass that Corning has just developped may make most glass even better: http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/06/new-willow-glass-is-rollable-and-paper-thin/ [arstechnica.com]

I don't see a fragile rubbery surface as an improvement...

Should be applied to porn. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230127)

That is fucking amazing!!!

Re:Should be applied to porn. (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230403)

Well, in a way, it already is. This is basically a touch screen having an erection.

Re:Should be applied to porn. (2)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230753)

Yeah, it's a joke, but it is pumping a liquid into a sack to make it firm. Very familiar.

Re:Should be applied to porn. (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230795)

Let's hope it isn't too wrinkly when it goes down again.

(It would cause distortions/refractions)

Looks quite ugly (2)

rebelwarlock (1319465) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230147)

The author seems to think the buttons look "slick", but they look cheap and cheesy to me. A regular touch screen looks a whole hell of a lot better, in my opinion.

Re:Looks quite ugly (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230179)

I agree, it looks a tad ugly. Though so did the first UIs for operating systems, and the first of a lot of other things. The first ipod looks fugly now!

However, think of all the visually impaired people who'd benefit from this, being able to introduce a dynamic braille would help a lot of people I'm sure. Just because you don't like it in blue doesn't mean everyone else will hate it too or find no benefit to the practical use, even if it doesn't look like the ritz of technology.

Re:Looks quite ugly (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230183)

Yes, there are prettier solutions coming out soon, like tactile feedback screen from Senseg [engadget.com]

Re:Looks quite ugly (4, Insightful)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230219)

They don't look cheap nor cheesy to me. The buttons in the demos simply don't look like keys on a keyboard, which is apparently the comparison you are making. The buttons demonstrated may not be the only form they can take. Tactus has a photo of a "remote" that appears to have squared angular buttons. Regardless, you are dismissing the primary reason for having the pseudo-buttons in favor of a rather shallow and pretentious one based on appearance. The purpose of the buttons isn't to look slick, it's to provide the otherwise absent tactile response.

Re:Looks quite ugly (5, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230285)

It strikes me you can only get tactile response if you touch them, and if you touch a touchscreen, you've operated it.

I wonder what the answer to this issue is.

Re:Looks quite ugly (3, Interesting)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230799)

Probably monitoring the pressure of the fluid in the buttons rather than the surface of the touchscreen while the buttons are up.

Re:Looks quite ugly (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230543)

The author seems to think the buttons look "slick", but they look cheap and cheesy to me. A regular touch screen looks a whole hell of a lot better, in my opinion.

Yes, I would agree that "blisters" sitting on my tablet screen give a whole new meaning to viral infection.

...or a cool way to let you know you've been DQ'ed in the new online porn matchmaking game...

"Uh, hey eDoc, my screen has blisters on it...what's that mean?"

Solution looking for a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230165)

If ever there was a solution desperately looking for a problem, I think this is it. I'll pass on this investment, thanks.

Re:Solution looking for a problem (2)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230253)

If manufacturers are going to insist on touch screens in cars (and I really wish they wouldn't), then this could be useful. Phone? I'll buy one with a flippy-outy keyboard.

Scratches (3, Insightful)

ByteSlicer (735276) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230167)

One of the things I like about current generation smart phones/tablets is that they're very resilient to scratching, using a hardened glass screen.

This looks like a soft rubbery layer on top, so my guess is that it would be quite vulnerable to scratching and tearing.

Re:Scratches (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230461)

it feels like a normal touch screen, btw

Re:Scratches (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230807)

I already have a plastic screen protector on top of my glass, so do a lot of other people. I don't see any problems with it.

Re:Scratches (2)

ByteSlicer (735276) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231121)

When your screen protector gets too scratched up or too dirty, you just peel it off and put a new one. If the same happens with this plastic button layer, I don't think it will be replaced so easily (it's connected to the electronics of your phone).

Maybe a screen protector on top of the button layer would be possible, if it's sufficiently flexible and resilient at the same time. Most protectors today are made from fairly rigid plastics, so those wouldn't work.

Re:Scratches (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231231)

I see problems with them all the time. They are not as clear, they smudge terribly and are generally not much better than the glass on the phone.

Phones these days are pretty darn scratch resistant.

Re:Scratches (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231503)

Big advantage: They're easy/cheap to replace. Glass screens aren't.

Paging Whistler... (5, Interesting)

Dusty101 (765661) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230171)

Assuming that it could also be used to display Braille, rhis tech could probably be rather useful for tablet computers and ebook readers for the blind.

Fixed? (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230175)

A fixed key pattern? *Weak*

Re:Fixed? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230237)

Agreed. See my reply below. Unless they can make it definable by points, rather than fixed keys, its utility will be severely limited.

And as someone else pointed out: it also places a soft layer over the nice hard capacitive touch screens that took so long to develop. I mean: you don't scratch Gorilla Glass with your plastic-pointed stylus. But you could probably break one of these keys (or maybe all of them, due to pressure loss) with a single pin prick.

The devices with hard screens have been doing a good job of improving tactile feedback. (It's called "haptic" these days for some strange reason, although nobody -- ever -- has been able to explain to me a real difference.) Haptic, admittedly, is different from "tactile" itself, but nobody has ever explained how "haptic" is different from "tactile feedback". They are the same thing. Just a marketing word.

Re:Fixed? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230449)

The difference (aside from Latin vs. Greek etymology) is simple -- haptics is a subset of tactile feedback, and refers to systems with providing feedback through actuators, whereas tactile feedback can include stuff like the snap-action in a real keyboard.

Re:Fixed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40231777)

Haptic feedback is the tactile equivalent of the fake shutter sounds digital cameras make so you know a picture was taken.

Not All That Useful, Unless... (4, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230187)

... unless they can come up with a way to raise them based on a fine grid array rather than fixed cell sizes. Then it would be a truly useful technology.

Until then, I am sure a company or two will see this useful for raising a telephone keypad above the rest of the display, for example. I don't see it as more finely-controlled than that, because the screens of different devices differ so much.

Unless it were made into a grid array, it could never be a standard. For long.

Re:Not All That Useful, Unless... (2)

adolf (21054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230263)

I could care less the textures are of fixed position, or on a finely-detailed grid. For the uses that its useful for, this probably doesn't matter much for a first draft of the concept.

Instead, I worry about the fluid and surface acting as a lens, obfuscating the details below. And I worry about durability: Gorilla Glass is awesome in ways that I never fully appreciated until I myself tested it to destruction, but a squishy membrane over top of it can't be any improvement.

(And nevermind the effects of scratching and trapped dirt that soft surfaces suffer from, especially (in practical use) with sunlight.)

Re:Not All That Useful, Unless... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230337)

Perhaps I did not explain myself well. As far as the surface, see the reply I made earlier, below. I expressed the same doubts.

The only point I was trying to make above was: unless you can define the raised areas on the fly, they will always be of limited utility.

Re:Not All That Useful, Unless... (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230377)

TFS says the thing can redefined quickly. That's good enough for me, for now, too.

But in addition to my previously-stated concerns, the whole thing seems about as likely to catch on as keyboard condoms [thekeyboardcompany.com] : It can't as much as fun as the real thing.

Re:Not All That Useful, Unless... (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231037)

there is a difference between

quickly redefine

Define dynamically.

their comment on "quickly redefined " means turn the raised buttons on and off quickly

What Jane is saying is to be able to define the areas that raise dynamically. The current incarnation of their tech requires the buttons to be raised in s specific place and shape based on what was manufactured. It equivalent to putting a permanent button on the side of the phone. But the true game changing will only occur when you can via software on the fly define where, when, shape, size to create buttons and have them turn on and off. This would require them to put nozzles and valves in a grid array over the entire screen, and from what i can see they don't have the valves yet nor a control method for them, right now they just have defined areas with a set of nozzles in each and a clear fluid and some way of creating/releasing pressure (maybe an electric piston?). It's very good idea, but requires a lot more R&D before it can be considered game changing.

Re:Not All That Useful, Unless... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231071)

If there's enough regions it hardly matters that they are aligned on a grid. You can make your windows align on a grid, too, with a little window manager magic.

Re:Not All That Useful, Unless... (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231767)

your missing the point.. the ability to control one cell/area over another.. right now they have an all or nothing. and Considering that you are trying to overlay a user interface solution to content that is natively displayed in a grid, while you could do it in say radial address scheme it would just add undo burden..

Keyboards (0)

nilsding (2555668) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230199)

This will probably replace hardware keyboards in the future.

Re:Keyboards (3, Insightful)

cbope (130292) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230251)

Not for me it won't. Try to imagine how tiring it will be to type on a non-mechanical keyboard with almost zero feedback. Also, note the resurgence of high-quality mechanical keyboards that have appeared in the last couple years that use high quality Cherry switches. Except for special applications, the standard keyboard isn't going anywhere when you need a large amount of text input.

Re:Keyboards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40231013)

Yes, it was tried - the Atari 400 [obsoleteco...museum.org] .

Had a look at all the 8-bit home computers as a teenager in the 1980's. Trying to type on one of those was the same as trying to the desk as a keyboard. My fingertips would tingle and go numb after about 15 minutes.

Re:Keyboards (0)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231227)

This will probably replace hardware keyboards in the future.

No it wont, don't be such an utter fucktard.

Agree with Dusty101 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230203)

Braille keypads are sorely needed, both on personal devices and other interactive displays such as ATM or kiosk machines. There's the half measure of having a touch screen as well as traditional physical buttons, but the experience grates compared to having a touch interface alone.

Meh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230227)

Could live without it.

www.weka-gartenhaus-holzprofi24.de [weka-garte...profi24.de] .

What is the problem being solved? (1)

cbope (130292) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230231)

I'm having a hard time coming up with the problem this solves, outside of creating a braille touchscreen "keyboard". Obviously, the liquid needs to be transparent so you can see the touchscreen underneath, which means the buttons have to rely on icons displayed on the LCD to indicate what the button does. So, you can now have a raised button on top of an icon on a touchscreen. Please excuse me as I don't get too excited over this. This looks like a solution in search of a problem...

Re:What is the problem being solved? (5, Insightful)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230247)

One area this could be a huge benefit would be in-car touchscreens. Right now, the massive rush to touchscreens in cars mean that driving interfaces are suddenly much less safe. They REQUIRE you to use your eyes to locate a region on the screen, and so it diverts your attention away from the road. A tactile touch screen would allow a flexible display to be operated by feel alone, a big safety improvement.

Re:What is the problem being solved? (1)

janek78 (861508) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230571)

While I agree with your point about touchscreens in cars, I don't see this as a solution, since these buttons are not pressed, they are touched, you can't just use tactile feedback to locate the right button and then press it, you'll "press" any button you touch. Still, I am curious where this technology will evolve and what uses it will find.

Re:What is the problem being solved? (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230701)

Then dont use touchscreens. BMW has it right with the big knob control at the center console. Rotate, push, up down left right. this can easily be added to the steering wheel.

Hell my Jeep I was able to use the 6 stereo buttons to navigate a DashPC decently safe. If the UI is not written by a moron, it can be done easily without a touchscreen or added driver distraction.

Re:What is the problem being solved? (3, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231097)

Then dont use touchscreens. BMW has it right with the big knob control at the center console. Rotate, push, up down left right. this can easily be added to the steering wheel.

No, that is TOTALLY WRONG. Because now instead of being able to access muscle memory directly and just reach out your arm and press the button you've pressed dozens of times before, you have to look into your memory and remember the sequence of moves, or look at the screen if you forget them. Any system that forces you to look at the screen rather than being able to just fumble around is taking your eyes off the road and therefore shit. A lot of people will never remember the sequences and thus these systems decrease road safety.

Re:What is the problem being solved? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231457)

You appear to be assuming that one button = one function. When you have an integrated panel controlling the mp3 player/radio/GPS/aircon/toaster it's pretty much a given that each button[1] will do more than one thing, ergo, you'll still have to remember sequences of presses.

[1] unless there are 297 of them, in which case the control panel will need to be the size of a pool table.

Re:What is the problem being solved? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40232179)

You appear to be assuming that one button = one function. When you have an integrated panel controlling the mp3 player/radio/GPS/aircon/toaster it's pretty much a given that each button[1] will do more than one thing, ergo, you'll still have to remember sequences of presses.

I personally think it is a horrible idea to switch entirely to a touch screen. A miserable, ruinous idea. Ideally every interface will have some physical buttons, for mode selection and possibly also an up/down control which handles whatever you most need access to; volume for the stereo, temp for the climate control, and so on. Two up/down controls would be ideal for each item, and you could mirror the buttons on the steering wheel. vol/(track/station), temp/fan, etc. Only things which you don't really need to do while moving (like adjusting visual preferences) should really be something you have to look at to use once you've use the system for a couple weeks.

Oh FFS (4, Insightful)

16Chapel (998683) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230275)

Started the video in TFA:

"For years, people believed the world was flat...".

Stop, close page. Great idea, ridiculous marketing.

Re:Oh FFS (1)

Martian_Kyo (1161137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230911)

It's still better then having great marketing for a ridiculous product. Being wise does not only mean to be able to see through good marketing and spot bad products, but also to look past bad marketing to see good products. Are you really willing to ignore a good product cause of bad marketing, I mean even after you discover that product is actually good.

Shapes and interfaces (1, Offtopic)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230281)

"The only intuitive interface is the nipple."

And now we can have nipples as the interface.

--
BMO

Re:Shapes and interfaces (1)

Martian_Kyo (1161137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230933)

Actually if this can be refined further you could actually use it for porn. Imagine feeling the curves of the porn star in the pictures, well you don't have to imagine anymore.

Touchscreen indistinguishable from any other??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230295)

Mobile device manufacturers spend years developing higher and higher resolution screens (retina display for example).

Users now have to look at said screen through an additional 1mm layer of plastic, a deformable, 200nm layer of plastic, and a ~1mm layer of fluid trapped in between. Not to mention that the buttons don't "simply recede away", as the article claims - if the video clip is anything to go by, the residual outline of the button sticks around long afterwards.

Moving parts (2)

dohzer (867770) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230389)

Nope, can't think of anything ever going wrong with moving parts.

Soon we will be announced the regular keyboard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230409)

After all these silly touch screen gimmix. Bleh.

Won't someone please think of the porn apps! (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230431)

Obviously, this is where this new technology can REALLY be useful . . .

Mimicking Nature (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230465)

Manipulating fluids is a quite efficient way to make things change shape. That is how an erection works, and (if you're not getting terribly distracted by thinking of it), you'll probably agree that also from a purely technical viewpoint it is a quite neat trick.

Exciting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230585)

I've been thinking about how best something like this could be done for a while now. I was thinking maybe you could have a means to raise individual pixels to create buttons, but I've no idea about the complexities of something like that.

This looks like it could be a more elegant solution, the only questions I've got are do the buttons depress or have any kind of feedback from being pressed or is it just a bump on top of a touch screen? I'd also like to know if there's a limit to how hard you can press a button without it "bursting" or damaging it. This could be really good for mobile gaming, particularly games that work best with buttons and d-pads!

Wait, patented already? (1)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230625)

I was under the impression that Apple had already filed for a patent on this.

Re:Wait, patented already? (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230925)

I was under the impression that Apple had already filed for a patent on this.

Probably. At least in the US, you no longer have to have a working prototype to register a patent. All you need is an "idea" to get a patent. Then you wait until someone actually figures out how to build it. You sue them for infringement, take over their development, and market it yourself.

But you need a big legal department and enough spare cash to pay for all the court time. So don't think of doing it as an independent developer; it's a technique only workable in a big organization with lots of money.

This is broken already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230643)

What use is it unless the 'bulges' function as buttons? You have to rest your fingers on the screen to find out where they are, and by that time you've already operated them"

Buttons That Morph Out of Your Touchscreen..... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230679)

But only in predetermined locations by the manufacturer.

Call me when they can make that button travel across the screen with a moving icon.

Also I really wonder how much added distortion to the visual display this adds. Notice they did not have any shots that would show you that you are looking through and can see all the spots where the buttons are. designed to be.

Paramount / Mike Okuda got there first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230863)

Actually, this mechanism (although realised differently) is presented in the Star Trek:TNG Technical Manual as the tactile component for the LCARS interface.

Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40230867)

I see word of video controls and not leaving the pause button in the center of the screen has yet to hit Singularity Hub dot com.

sounds familiar... (1)

phluid61 (2501032) | more than 2 years ago | (#40230937)

Oh, that's right, this was posted on /. a few years ago: http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/09/04/29/1516231/a-touch-screen-with-morphing-buttons [slashdot.org] Heh, same thing was reported on by the same site as the current FA: http://singularityhub.com/2009/08/20/a-flexible-touch-screen-changes-surface-to-match-display/ [singularityhub.com]

Re:sounds familiar... (1)

Naso540 (2304414) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231103)

Good pull on that one, however, it sounds like that was different technology using air. I'm sure this will prove out over time and get better. I worry about the durability of this new one.

Too Creepy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40231171)

Buttons morphing in my pocket?

Too creepy. Do not want.

I already have enough issues/complaints about device controls changing.

But is it worth it? (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231237)

It sounds like a great way to add cost to your smart phone.

braile? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40231383)

I bet blind people would love this if it could render braile.

ugh, slow (2)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231645)

I don't want to wait 2 seconds between each interface change on my phone. 1 second to release the current buttons. 1 second for new buttons to form. I'm sure it's all very glorious and cool the first time you see it. It's probably agonizingly boring every time thereafter.

With this, maybe the iPhone could have seen sucess (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40231657)

Seems like a perfect way to get people to adopt phones like the iPhone, even though it doesn't have a physical keyboard.
It's really sad that Apple crashed like they did when they launched it, but you know it's no big wonder when you consider that they entire industry warned them again and again that consumers would never adopt a phone that didn't have tactile feedback from a physical keyboard.

Ohh wait, the rest of the industry was wrong and Apple succeeded enourmesly and everyone else followed suit. People seem to be quite content with touchscreens, so this actually solves a by now quite outdated problem that never really materialized.

Pop the bubble wrap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40231701)

Awesome... can't wait to play "pop the virtual infinite bubble wrap" app all day ;)

Obligatory bash.org quote (0)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231891)

<Zybl0re> get up
<Zybl0re> get on up
<Zybl0re> get up
<Zybl0re> get on up
<phxl|paper> and DANCE
* nmp3bot dances :D-<
* nmp3bot dances :D|-<
* nmp3bot dances :D/-<
<[SA]HatfulOfHollow> i'm going to become rich and famous after i invent a device that allows you to stab people in the face over the internet

The Return of Tactile (1)

garbut (1990152) | more than 2 years ago | (#40232079)

I'll be so glad to be able to feel the buttons again when driving... much safer and more covert

They should call the next model (1)

nhat11 (1608159) | more than 2 years ago | (#40232793)

the T-1000!
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