Future smartphones may feature inflatable keyboards on OLED displays

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Is it possible to leave the touchscreen alone and put a physical keyboard on a smartphone? The Future Interfaces Group (FIG) at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) seems to think so. A researcher recently demonstrated that such a keyboard could exist via inflatable buttons on his OLED screen.

This type of technology is called flat panel haptics, Worked at CMU for the past 15 years (opens in new tab)A new breakthrough is that FIG was able to develop a 5mm-thick flat panel haptic board by developing an implantable electro-osmotic pump (EEOP). According to the demo video (opens in new tab), EEOPs can manipulate special pumping fluids by passing an electric current through them. The pump sits between this liquid reservoir at the bottom and a flexible surface at the top. When electricity is applied to the stack, the pump can inflate the rigid button on top to 5mm high.


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