The bombardment of new announcement coming out of the Consumer and Electronic Show (CES 2016) made me to search again for TACTUS, a company I first met in CES 2013 promising to provide “Application controlled, completely transparent physical buttons that rise up from the touch-screen surface on demand”.
The excitement in having such product available for blind and visually impaired people is obvious. It enables seamless integration of touch gestures available in smartphones and tablets with the ease of use of physical keys and tactile feedback. Working with blind users, we at Project Ray understand the value of it first-hand. We still see too many visually impaired people that try working with smartphones and tablets, end up keeping their traditional feature phone with physical keyboard and basic telephony services. Such technologies promise to eliminate a major barrier in blind users’ adoption of touch-based devices and make digital accessibility possible.
Three years later and TACTUS is closer to ship it first commercial product, “Phorm” – a glass cover for the iPAD mini that upon activation raises physical ‘dots’ in the shape of a keyboard – “World first morphing touchscreen”.
True, this first product is a bit different from the initial promises. It requires physical activation when one knows that there is a keyboard on the screen, the dots are there for marking the different keys but not for actual pressing, the experience is limited for keyboard morphing, and availability is still a few months away. However, it is certainly a huge step in the right direction and a technology we are eager to have and use.