Hands-On: Tactus Technology Gives Flat Touchscreens The Middle Finger With Pop-Up Buttons

This actually works. I touched it. I played with it. And I fantasized about a bubble wrap app.

Tactus Technology stopped by our CES booth for a short demo of its crazy touch-screen technology. Using microfluid technology (and a bit of magic), Tactus’s solution produces honest-to-goodness buttons that raise out of the touchscreen. And then, just as quickly as they appear, they disappear when not needed. There wasn’t another technology or gadget that drew as big a crowd at our booth. Not the Pebble Watch, not the Oculus Rift, not the Razer Edge. All of our staff had to touch what we all hope will eventually become standard in touchscreens — real buttons.

In the video above, Tactus’ CEO and Founder, Craig Ciesla, explains the technology better than I can. Here’s a white paper (PDF) on the subject, too. But never mind how it works. What’s special at this point is that it works. And it works well, too.

When, in this case, Android calls for a keyboard, the buttons raise out of the screen nearly instantly. They have a small amount of resistance, just enough to survive the occasional accidental touch. Then, when Android no longer needs a keyboard, the buttons instantly melt back into the screen. Ciesla states that it can be configured into any design; it’s not limited to just a QWERTY keyboard form. For instance, these buttons could be used for a gaming pad configuration, too.

Tactus is aiming this system at OEMs rather than producing Tactus-branded tablets and smartphones itself. Ciesla assured me both on and off the camera that his company already has partnerships in place, and the world will see gadgets with this technology by the end of the year. No word on a bubble wrap app, though.