Miss Your Blackberry Keyboard? Try Phorm From Tactus
You know what most ex-Blackberry users really miss? Not being able to use that nice crisp keyboard to pen emails. There are just some of us who really like the feel of a keyboard as opposed to pecking away at a touch screen. Sticking with that old Blackberry is not the only way to keep that keyboard feel, as a very innovative startup wants to provide keyboards that can be turned on and off for a touch screen device so you can have the best of both worlds.
Founded in 2008, Fremont California based Tactus Technology has taken in around $25 million in funding so far to develop a new tactile user interface for touchscreen devices. Tactus was co-founded by two Ph.Ds with extensive product development experience in optical and microfluidic technologies along with an ex-BlackBerry keyboard design expert. The technology uses microfluidics to make a keyboard appear and disappear in less than a second on-demand. Small fluid channels are routed throughout a layer on the screen, and enable fluid to expand a top polymer layer to create the physical buttons. The buttons can be turned on and off with software or with a manual sliding button. The keys consume no battery power in either the on or off state. Below you can see how this technology is utilized in the display stack of a smartphone:
Tactus is working on licensing this technology to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) so that it can be integrated into smartphones and tablets. An article published earlier this year by cnet said that Tactus expects to turn out their first integrated OEM product some time in 2016. The second application of the Company’s technology addresses the billions of devices already in use today.
Tactus has developed a device case and screen protector for the iPad mini called Phorm which was available for pre-order at the discounted price of $99 (regular price is $149) but is now sold out.
Sliding the large button on the back of the case makes the keyboard appear and disappear. Initial reports from the media show mixed responses when using keyboard. In a study performed by Tactus, 70% of users who tried the Phorm keyboard said they would prefer to use it over touch. Tactus plans to launch an iPhone 6 Plus Phorm case in the near future and cases for iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6 are in the product pipeline. With the technology being only available on Apple products so far, would this make a good acquisition target for Apple? After all, Tactus is working with Ammunition, the same firm that originally worked with Beats on its hardware pre-Apple acquisition.
Short of an acquisition by Apple, Tactus could look to be acquired by a company like Synaptics (NASDAQ:SYNA) or even look for an IPO exit. The technology is easy enough to understand for investors, the question becomes just how much money could Tactus make if this became standard functionality that was integrated into most OEM devices?
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