We’ve been talking about Tactus for quite some time now, but they’ve been quietly plugging away in the background growing and improving. They just recently secured a major series B round of funding (insert amount) and are now working quickly to grow even more. Tactus’ original vision that we showed you last year at CES (and before) was that they would create physical buttons for touchscreens where there were none. Their technology was enabled through some very tricky techniques and ultimately allowed for a physical QWERTY keyboard to co-exist with a touchscreen display.
Since then, they’ve made some significant improvements to their technology and done some mind blowing things. First and foremost, they’ve successfully integrated their technology within existing tablets, demonstrating that they can easily integrate their tech within existing technology designs. In addition to that, they’ve partnered with numerous display and touch screen manufacturers and touch controller manufacturers to deliver to optimal physical QWERTY experience while not sacrificing any touch sensitivity. In fact, they’ve managed to increase the touch sensitivity of the displays by allowing their QWERTY buttons to have adjustable pressure sensitivity. This allows you to rest your fingers on the keys without pressing them or engage the keys by just touching them, whichever suits your desire is how you can configure it. I believe that this feature will become just as ubiquitous as display brightness adjustment.
They’ve been working very closely with multiple OEMs, ODMs and display manufacturers to both integrate their technology into displays as well as to work their technology into certain display manufacturers’ production lines. That is a natural growth of this company’s original business plan and comes as no surprise to anyone that such a ground breaking technology could gain adoption from the market. There are going to be final production quality device hitting the market relatively soon with Tactus’ technology but since Tactus has NDAs with those companies they couldn’t tell us with whom.
Now, the next bit of what Tactus is doing is what really excited me and that was their prototype 3D printed case. This case is a full case and screen protector for your iPad or Nexus tablet and goes on like a case and a screen protector. It can be applied by any Joe Schmoe just like a normal screen protector and case but operates like a factory installed application of Tactus’ display. Meaning that you could buy a case from one of Tactus’ case manufacturing partners and add this functionality by simply putting on the case and screen protector. I tested this feature out myself firsthand and was amazed by how well it worked and that it didn’t interfere with the tablet’s usage at all and in fact acted like a protective case and screen protector while adding a huge amount of functionality. It also didn’t affect the visual fidelity of the display at all as I was not able to see the buttons once I had pulled them back down. The buttons completely disappeared from my view and it worked flawlessly, albeit a bit slowly, but this is just a prototype. Below, we’ve got a video of it in action. Keep in mind that this is a prototype and a final version will likely not require the user to slide the keyboard up and down manually.
I would expect that such a technology would retail for about $100 considering as most case manufacturers sell their current laptop cases for iPads for about that price, but this is far more elegant and impressive solution than they are currently selling for that price.
If Tactus’ technology gains the adoption that I suspect it will get, they stand to become the primary company to deliver QWERTY keyboards in the age of touchscreen smartphones. But the applications for this technology are not limited to smartphones. You could see this technology get applied in automotive on people’s steering wheels, in-car infotainment systems, or on other consumer electronic devices that need variable button placements. Imagine a camera shutter button that appears where your index finger is rather than your finger being where the button is.
Tactus could possibly bring us a new age of devices that are now catered to our personal wants and needs and are tailored to fit us. They offer manufacturers the opportunity to not only differentiate their product, but to also improve the way that we interact with their products.