Tactus and its Phorm iPad Mini case can perform a fun magic trick: Turn the case on, and keypad buttons appear in the screen, right where the touch-based keyboard buttons are. No longer do you have to type through sight and sound alone!
This tactile addition is possible through a thin layer of fluid trapped in this case, which responds to an electrical current by grouping up in predetermined ways. Put a Phorm on your iPad Mini, and suddenly you have physical guidelines to help you type. If you don’t like the little key bumps, you can switch them off whenever you want. There’s no battery to recharge or replace, either, you can keep using the keyboard for as long as you want.
Tests of the Phorm have apparently indicated much higher satisfaction when it comes to typing on the appearing nodules. However, this raises (pun intended?) a few questions. First, how does the keypad react to you sliding your fingers between buttons? Will the touchscreen accidentally read this as taps between the keys? Second, this begs the question of touchscreens for the blind: Can the Phorm be modified to help blind users with more detailed buttons or other touchscreen features that add physicality to the keyboard?
Either way, it was probably smart to start with the iPad Mini, with its smaller, more frustrating touch keyboard. Plans are currently being made to create a larger version of the iPad as well, but this is a future project.
With the science behind the Phorm case, it’s no surprise that it costs a bit more than your traditional plastic protector. You can preorder one for $99 now, but when they hit the market they will cost $50 more on the shelves, so take advantage quickly if this is the typing solution you’ve been waiting for.