Touchscreens with Popup Buttons

Touchscreens have advanced a lot over the last few years. As technology has advanced they seem to be more easier to use and a lot more responsive. Mix this with faster processors and faster operating systems you then get an even smoother scrolling and functioning system. However, they are still not quite where they need to be. For example, sending a text message on a mobile phone with only a touchscreen can be quite a pain. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have now developed a screen that can slightly change shape to form buttons across the screen when needed.

The surface of the screen can be completely smooth, or have raised or lowered buttons that can automatically appear. The morphing buttons were created by Chris Harrison and Scott Hudson and have been created as a proof-of-concept.

The morphing buttons work by using a semitransparent latex over the screen. This sits over an acrylic plate with holes in and then a pump is used to push out or suck in the latex. The first prototypes use a projector and infra-red light to allow multi-touch usage. The projectors cast the image on to the screen while the infra-red picks up light scattered when a finger touches the screen.

“Microsoft Surface does graphics, and you can touch it, but it’s totally fixed,” Harrison says. “Buttons on a dashboard have great tactile input, but there’s no display. And it’s not like you can just deform an LCD screen and . . . make it electrically conductive at the same time.”

I do like the idea of screens that change shape. However, I can’t see latex and air pumps along with a projector being used in the next iPhone 🙂 But, things can be made smaller and no doubt some method like this or similar will be available in the future.

Via: TechnologyReview and Engadget

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