Aug. 8 - A Silicon Valley startup plans to revolutionize the mobile device industry with its morphing button technology. Tactus Technology has designed a thin invisible layer of liquid-filled channels that can generate keyboard-like buttons on command. Ben Gruber reports.
IPhone or Blackberry? It's a question that divides smart phone users all over the world. Craig Ciesla, the CEO Tactus Technology, recalls the day when he first faced that question. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CRAIG CIESLA, CEO, TACTUS TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "When that first IPhone came out, it was literally a Saturday afternoon walking to the coffee shop saying, wow, that IPhone is really cool but I have my Blackberry and I don't think I could do without my buttons." So Ciesla began asking a different question. Is it possible design a surface that combines the best of both worlds - a touch screen that is sleek and smooth, but has keyboard that you can actually feel? After four years of research and engineering, Ciesla and his team have designed the world's first morphing touch screen. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CRAIG CIESLA, CEO, TACTUS TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "So what we are doing is creating this invisible network of liquid-filled channels in the window of your touch screen." These channels are flat and contiguous with the screen until the morphing ability is activated. Then a liquid is pumped though them to raise the buttons from the screen - much like a balloon being filled with air. Tactus Chief Technology officer Micah Yariri says the company has filed 26 patents on the technology with six already granted. He says that while Apple's touchscreen has been extremely popular, it does not offer the tactile satisfaction of pressing a button. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MICAH YAIRI, CTO, TACTUS TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "The need for touch is fundamental. Even when you are a young infant your first response is not to look, it's not to listen, it is to reach out and connect with your parents. And that sense of touch stays with you for your whole life." Yariri says the applications for the technology are almost limitless. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MICAH YAIRI, CTO, TACTUS TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "So with a camera you can envision having a camera that is perfectly smooth. And only as you come close to it does a single button come up and you touch that and all of the sudden the camera turns on. And depending on what particular application you are using other buttons appear or disappear as appropriate for that. So it is not simply a mobile device product, it is for any type of surface you can begin seeing having dynamic morphable buttons become part of that user interface." Both Yariri and Cielsa want their morphing touch technology applied to smooth screen surfaces the world over to give a new dimension and increased functionality. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CRAIG CIESLA, CEO, TACTUS TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "There are such a broad number of markets even with say between one or two mobile computing markets, there is a huge opportunity here. These markets by themselves are growing rapidly and we become that enabling component for that next level of experience. It becomes widely adapted rapidly and that becomes a very large business, a very profitable business is a relatively short period of time from today." Cielsa will not say what kind of device will be the first to sport a morphing touch screen, but he does say it will make its debut in the middle of 2013.