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New Phorm Case Generates A Tactile Keyboard Out Of Thin Air

Transparent technology has improved so much over the years. It has become so incredible that it is virtually invisible. Tactus’ founders — Dr. Craig Ciesla and Dr. Micah Yairi, have now taken advantage of this capability and used it to manufacture the Phorm tablet case, which can generate tactile keys on your tablet screen! If you want to watch a video in full screen, you can simply turn it off and the keys will vanish as if they never existed.

Phorm Tablet Case
The Phorm tablet case. Image obtained with thanks from Phorm.


This technology sounds like something Blackberry might be interested in, as they are known for their physical keyboards. They have been attempted to provide the feel of a physical keyboard + touch screen capabilities many times. Examples: The Blackberry Storm had no physical keyboard, but a tactile feedback feature, the Blackberry Q5 and Q10 have both touch screens and keyboards built in, as well as the Blackberry Passport, Classic, other Bold models which are also equipped with both.

These attempts are very convenient for those who aren’t accustomed to touch-screens yet, but this comes at the cost of screen size. Typically, the keypad takes up have of the space that could have been used for the screen, so that entails a huge loss of screen size. You’ll have to scroll more often, visibility will be sub-par, plus these devices tend to have square screens. Square screens have odd aspect ratios (compared to most modern devices which are 16:9 to 16:12), so photos and websites won’t fill these screens as well.

The Technology Behind The Phorm Keyboard

The Phorm tablet case/keyboard combo overlays your tablet’s screen with a microfluidic panel containing transparent channels which it passes the liquid through to fill those physical keys like little balloons. As Darrell Etherington of TechCrunch put it:

‘The company’s innovation uses a microfluidic panel to achieve its magic, routing liquid through invisible channels to expand specific areas of the top layer of a touch panel, producing protrusions and bumps where previously there were none.’

The Phorm is by no means a traditional keyboard, and you won’t get that hard, tactile feedback that you get from traditional keyboard technology, however, it is better than a flat touch screen (at least for those who prefer physical keyboards). The morphing panel that overlays your tablet screen is not made of glass. For people like me whom have a very strong preference for glass, this is not ideal. We don’t like the feel of plastic screens. For people who tend to drop tablets often, this is good news as it is shatter proof.

Glass provides the most smooth, crystal clear, scratch-free experience that you can get, and it provides for easy cleaning (even with chemicals that might otherwise ruin plastic), but it breaks more easily than plastic. You simply can’t afford to drop it.

Other Benefits

The Phorm website says it doesn’t need to be recharged. I don’t know how pulled this off, but they probably meant that it recharges simultaneously with the iPad Mini when you plug it in. It also acts as a screen protector, so once the Phorm becomes battered (god forbid, that wouldn’t be economical), your tablet will look good as new.

The Phorm case is available for pre-order at $99, but is currently only available for the iPad Mini.

To see the rest of the features and pre-order it, visit the Phorm website.

Source: TechCrunch.

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