A new technology shown off at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas enables regular touch screens to sprout actual, physical buttons.
Developed by a company called Tactus, it works by manipulating a transparent fluid inside the screen and causing it to press up against a top polymer layer, which bulges up and creates a button that can be pressed.
The effects, shown in the video below, seem to promise that touch screens of the future won't just be flat interactive displays, but dynamic devices with every bit as much tactile feedback as the keypads of old.
"By enhancing both function and usability with Tactus, it is now possible to merge the essential capabilities of smartphones, tablets and laptops through a true physical interface," the company explained. "In a world of flat, static devices, Tactus brings new life to touchscreens by enabling real, physical buttons that rise up from a screen's surface on demand and then disappear back into the screen, leaving a flat, transparent surface when no longer needed."
As cool as this new tech looks, it's not clear how much it will cost or how well it will be supported by software developers if it ever does make it into pockets around the world. There's also no telling how sturdy it is -- a crucial factor, given consumers' short but troubled history with touch screens thus far.
This video was published to Vimeo on Monday, January 7, 2013.
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