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Shape-Changing Plastic Could Provide Touchscreens with 'Clicky' Keyboards

By - Source: Extreme Tech | B 8 comments

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.

Strategic Polymer EMP Demonstration (April 2012)

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  • 5 Hide
    nforce4max , April 22, 2013 5:20 AM
    Wow now that is neat!
  • 2 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , April 22, 2013 6:09 AM
    Didn't they have this at CES 2013?
  • 0 Hide
    eiskrystal , April 22, 2013 6:46 AM
    The way it moves makes it look alive. Robotics applications maybe?
  • Display all 8 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    eklipz330 , April 22, 2013 7:56 AM
    Didn't they have this at CES 2013?

    yes. yes they did.

  • 0 Hide
    C12Friedman , April 22, 2013 7:58 AM
    Although I like the effect, I can't help but think it's a little creepy
  • 1 Hide
    shadowfamicom , April 22, 2013 8:47 AM
    I rather have a smaller screen and a physical keyboard and buttons, the the phones out there now. Really getting sick of touchscreens in general.
  • -1 Hide
    curiosul , April 22, 2013 8:47 AM
    On a side note, I know someone who almost swore that the iPhone's screen was like that (or at least it felt like that to him compared to any other Android phone)
  • 0 Hide
    heero yuy , April 22, 2013 10:36 AM
    hasn't this already been done with a system that uses little pockets that fill with air or a fluid?