Gel-based touchscreen brings up physical buttons on demand
We all love the touchscreen displays; quite rightly, since buttoned phones are out of business, almost! How are you with the idea of a touchscreen display which reveals physical buttons when you need them and hides them away when not require? Sounds good? If it does, Researchers from Technische Universität Berlin in Berlin, Germany, have devised a touchscreen with layer of gel on top of it, which stiffens when heat is applied to it and softens when the heat cools off. This phenomenon makes it possible for the display to have temporary buttons, in any shape when needed and return to normal touch display later.
Dubbed as GelTouch, the seven-inch touchscreen prototype basically intends to add physical buttons to flat touchscreen; the technology is still research is progress. Researchers are working on making the heating and cooling process (used to display buttons) more swift and quicker. You can read the research paper here.
Touchscreens we know are very sleek and easy to use, but there is a problem. Unlike buttoned devices, you cannot operate touchscreen devices so effortlessly without looking at the screen. GelTouch, which adds buttons to touchscreen device without adding to material size of a device, could make touchscreens more effective.
To make the GelTouch work, researches have used heat-responsive hydrogel over the touchscreen. The gel has a transparent layer of indium tin oxide (ITO) placed right underneath it and is attached to electrodes. When heat is sent through engraved shapes in the ITO panel, the heat-responsive gel stiffs up and expands into a predefined shape and protrudes on the display surface as button. When electric current is stopped, the gel cools down and contracts, returning the touchscreen to its normal shape.
Excitingly, GelTouch can form buttons in different shapes and even have different shaped buttons on the same spot. Basically then, as Zach Epstein of BGR explains, “imagine a smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard that appears near the bottom of the screen when you want it, and gaming controls that can appear in the same spot.”