A startup is creating a case for the iPad Mini that can create a keyboard on top of a touchscreen seemingly by magic.
Tactus Technology is working with Tawainese electronics manufacturer Wistron to create a shape-shifting iPad case that can lift a physical keyboard out of a flat screen whenever you need to type.
We first saw the Tactus prototype this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, but after a $US13.5 million Series B fundraise and the partnership with Wistron cemented last month, the company will be ready to start shipping cases this year for between $US80 and $US100.
Here’s how it works:
Tactus has created a thin, clear layer that looks almost exactly like a screen protector you’d place on your iPad. The surface is a semi-elastic polymer, and underneath it are little channels filled with a special micro-fluid. By adding or taking away fluid, Tactus can make the keyboard either pop up or melt away.
When you buy the iPad case, this layer will connect to the hard-shell backing, which will have a switch on its side. By moving the switch, you can push out transparent, physical buttons over the iPad’s standard keyboard. The keys can appear and disappear almost instantly.
Wistron, which has produced devices for companies such as Apple, Acer, and BlackBerry, will have the cases ready to go this year. The company is also capable of mass producing products with Tactus’ shape-shifting tech baked inside. Meaning, instead of buying a case, you could simply buy a phone that replaces the usual Gorilla glass screen with one made using Tactus micro-fluids. Tactus CEO Craig Ciessla told Business Insider that he hopes to start manufacturing phones with the Tactus screen built-in sometime next year.
Ciesla and his co-founder Micah Yairi came up with the idea for Tactus in 2008 when Yairi was working with a company making micro-fluids for medical devices. Ciesla, who had always used a BlackBerry, had troubling typing with the recently released iPhone’s touch-screen and longed for his keyboard back. The pair decided to try to see if they could use micro-fluids to create a dynamic keyboard. Six years later, they’re ready to ship their first product.
Here’s a demo video showing what the technology looks like: