Building A Better Keyboard For The Touchscreen Age

A San Francisco-based company is planning to ship its super-thin, polymer-based haptic keyboard to manufacturers next year. It offers the sensation, and even the sound, of pressing keys.

What's the Latest Development?

San Francisco-based Strategic Polymers Sciences has developed an ultrathin, flexible polymer-based touch interface that mimics the sensation of typing on a keyboard. The polymer "dramatically and rapidly changes its shape under an applied electric field. The letters...vibrate to confirm that they’ve been pressed; that vibration can also be used to create sound waves, so the keys can click, or even play music." The company is also working on making a transparent coating so that the keyboard can be included in touchscreens.

What's the Big Idea?

For those of us who are still tied to actual keyboards, haptic interfaces that reproduce the feel of real keys are welcome. Strategic Polymers Sciences co-founder Qiming Zhang says that finding the right combination of flexibility, shape change, and response time has been challenging. Now that they have a polymer that fits the criteria, future products planned include "a fully transparent keyboard with buttons that would physically pop up from the surface of a touch screen when activated, and then return to a smooth state."

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Read it at MIT Technology Review

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