Modern smartphones have come a long way in terms of technology. But there is one element that many people still miss – a real keyboard. BlackBerry smartphones used to be popular because they offered a typing experience unrivaled by any other smartphone. This could change soon, as researchers at the Future Interfaces Group (FIG) may have found a solution to this problem.
The technique they’ve been working on for the past 15 years is called Flat Panel Haptics (FPH). The latter uses inflated keys to provide tactile feedback on a flat surface. The FPH is less than 5mm thick and has an embedded electro-osmotic pump that uses an electric current to activate miniature pumps. The fluid then presses into the flexible screen surface, forming a rigid button 5mm thick.
The FIG prototype has a soft silicone cover on top of the OLED display, similar to that used in today’s foldable smartphones. Because the surface inflates and deflates on demand, it has more practical applications than just physical keyboards. For example, the display can enlarge an app icon or a specific part of the user interface to help blind users navigate.
The creators of the new technology, known as Flat Panel Haptics (FPH), are aware that it has some shortcomings. The buttons that appear when you touch the screen are weak and require a lot of energy to keep working. They are also much too thick. Because tablets are thicker and have bigger batteries, they may be the first to use it.
The new Flat Panel Haptics (FPH) technology is amazing and is changing the way we use our mobile phones. As this technology develops, it has the potential to make phones more accessible to people with disabilities, perhaps leading to new ways of interacting and getting things done. Although there are still some issues that need to be addressed, the future of FPH and what it can achieve seems quite bright.