Using electromechanical polymers, Strategic Polymer claims to be able to create physical "clicky" keys that will pop out the surface of a touchscreen's keyboard with a millisecond response time.
One of the largest omissions from the past few generations of smartphones has been the lack of tactile feedback due to a combination of touchscreens only proving a virtual response, and the continuing trend of manufacturers foregoing physical keyboards for slimmer devices and increased screen real estate.
Strategic Polymer's new electromechanical polymer (EMP) technology may offer a solution to this problem by allowing physical "clicky" keys to pop out of a touchscreen with millisecond response time. EMP utilizes a new "high-strain electromechanical material" which, through electrostriction, can be engineered to respond very specifically to an applied electric field and deform by up to 10 percent with very fast response times.
If this technology works as advertised, we may see touchscreens with functional physical keyboards arrive on the market as early as next year. This being said, it is still unknown if the polymers it could take on different physical layouts for different applications, or if they'd be restricted to single design. Since EMP could not function through a layer of hardened or scratch resistant glass, it brings up further concerns as to the material's durability and tolerance for damage.
An early demonstration of Strategic Polymer's electromechanical polymer technology is available below.