Researchers create an OLED panel with inflatable keyboard
Perhaps one of the things people miss the most in modern smartphones is the physical keyboard. That’s why BlackBerry devices were so popular in the past – they offered an unrivaled typing experience. Well, researchers from Future Interfaces Group have been working on a solution for the past 15 years and they’ve made a significant breakthrough.
The tech, called Flat Panel Haptics, provides tactile feedback on a flat surface using inflatable buttons. The FPH is 5 millimeters thick and incorporates an Embedded Electro-Osmotic Pump. Using an electrical current to activate the small pumps, the fluid pushes onto the flexible screen surface and creates a rigid button that measures 5 millimeters in thickness.
The prototype FIG shows in the video uses a soft silicone surface on top of the OLED panel, similar to the one used in today’s foldable smartphones. Since the surface inflates and deflates on demand, there are more practical implications aside from just physical keyboards. The display can inflate an app icon or a certain UI element to help blind people navigate. for example.
In the published paper, researchers recognize several limitations of the tech. One of them is the poor durability of the said buttons. The energy needed to keep the system running and its thickness are an issue. So we may see the new tech being implemented into tablets first, as they tend to be bulkier and have larger batteries.
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