Everyone who owns a smartphone or tablet knows the irritation of trying (and failing) to tap out words with any accuracy on a touchscreen. The biggest problem is the lack of physical keys, and while keyboard cases are okay, they tend to turn our beautiful, svelte devices into plastic-covered heavyweights. But the latest work from Tactus Technology looks to have this problem solved.

Tactus Technology Is Bringing Physical Feedback to Touchscreens

The California-based company has spent a number of years developing a clear, screen protector-like surface that can be rapidly injected with a micro-liquid, to form surface blisters which act like physical keys. The first product containing this technology will go on sale later this year, and while some design specifics are being kept a secret, it is likely to be a phone or tablet case with a rear shell as a mounting spot for a keyboard-summoning switch.

However, this is just the very first baby step in Tactus’ ambitions. A recently-formed partnership with Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, Wistron, means that within the next couple of years, the technology will be production-ready for integration into the next generation of smart devices. In fact, Tactus plans to make its own tablet by 2015.

Tactus Is Bringing Physical Feedback to a Touchscreen Near You

But there’s more. The clever thing about the use of a fluid is that it is completely flexible, and Tactus says that with the addition of a tiny pump, their surface can be made to blister into pretty much any shape. The future potential, therefore, is huge — Tactus envisions pop-up gaming controls on tablets, shape-shifting keys on the touchscreens of digital cameras, and even the addition of physical buttons to touch-based in-car computing.

Personally, I can’t wait for Tactus’ case to arrive, but as a journalist, I probably type on touchscreens more than the average person. However, I suspect most smartphone and tablet owners will be glad to have some physical feedback from a virtual keyboard…at last!