Wouldn’t it be easier to type on a smart phone or tablet if the buttons were raised?  If nothing else it would improve spelling.  Now what if those sunk back down when you didn’t need them?  That would be even cooler right? 

Tactus Technology of Fremont CA, has developed this exact capability.  Called, a “tactile layer” (trademarked) they describe it like this: (the device) “provides a next-generation haptic user interface with real physical buttons, guidelines, or shapes that rise out of the surface (and recede to invisibility) from any touchscreen.”  Oh, I see.

According to Tactus’ press release the panel is transparent and completely flat.  It adds no physical thickness since it replaces a layer of the existing display stack.

When the layer is activated, buttons and shapes appear on the screen surface.  From there you use the device as if real buttons were installed.  The buttons go away (the screen deflates in a way) when they are not needed.

There is no word on when the technology might be installed on consumer devices, as the first public demonstration only took place on June 5, 2012.  For a full list of devices that might be enhanced by this technology go to the company press release.