A 1.5 mm thick, flexible keyboard made of transparent, shape-changing polymers, that can give the feeling of real buttons, is the new state-of-the-art technology we will soon see on our mobile devices and laptops.

How many times have you tried to text something and the message came out not-exactly-as-you-meant-to? The conventional touch screens don’t “physically” respond when you press a button or key. This new haptic technology changes this picture. Each key is individually wired and vibrates when pressed, giving the feeling of an actual button. This way the user knows and feels his request have been accepted and processed. On top of that, the keyboard is paper thin, perfectly flexible and feather light. Imagine this technology on your touch-screen.

Strategic Polymers Sciences, is the San Francisco based company that developed the haptic keyboard. SPS specializes in transparent coatings and superthin electro-mechanical polymers (EMPs) for use in touch screens, smartphones and tablets. These polymers can change their shape under an applied electric field, vibrate to confirm they have been pressed, or even create a sound. Unlike other electrically responsive polymers, EMPs respond in milliseconds, can alter their shape by 10 percent and are sensitive to small voltages. 

Due to their durability, flexibility and thinness, EMP polymers can be applied in a variety of devices, from steering wheels to wearable electronics. As Christopher Ramstein, CEO of Strategic Polymers said, “the company’s future products will take advantage of the polymers’ transparency and flexibility. One prototype is a cell phone with pads on the back that vibrate to indicate right and left turns or notable sights during navigation. The company is also working on a fully transparent keyboard with buttons that would physically pop up from the surface of a touch screen when activated, and then return to a smooth state.”

Source: phys.org, Strategic Polymers SPS