iPad Mini Screen Protector Conjures Up Tactile Keyboard From Thin Air

phormgrabIn spite of the near-ubiquity of virtual keyboards on flat smartphone and tablet screens, some people really long for the haptic feedback provided by actual keys. That’s why some companies — like the legally besieged Typo slip-on keyboards — have tried to bring that sensation back to consumers who want it. Now there’s a new iPad screen protector/case that claims to be able to conjure up something keyboard like out of thin air.

It’s the Phorm from a company called Tactus, and when you slip your iPad Mini into it, it just looks like another protective case for the tablet.

Then you slide a switch on the back of the Phorm and suddenly the screen deforms to create three-dimensional little bubbles over the keys of the Mini’s keyboard.

Tactus tells TechCrunch that the Phorm uses a microfluidic panel to that routes liquid through tiny invisible channels to create the dots.

In addition to working on screen protectors for other devices, the company has plans to work with manufacturers to integrate the technology into phones and tablets so that it doesn’t require a separate case. In the above video, a rep from Tactus shows off a prototype of a tablet with an integrated screen that deforms and flattens out whenever the keyboard shows up onscreen.

The big question and concern we have about anything like this is durability. Tactus says it’s done all sorts of strength, flexibility, and durability tests, but there is no machine that accurately simulates a few months of use by your average teenager.

And of course the Phorm doesn’t come cheap. At $99 for people who pre-order the accessory, one might have to reconsider just how important it is to be able to press a button.