At last week’s Digital Contents Expo 2012 held in Tokyo, cutting edge technology company Kyocera unveiled something that will no doubt appeal to tablet and smartphone users the world over, potentially changing the way we use our modern-day gadgets forever.

The company has produced an intelligent touch screen that mimics a variety of sensations, from soft and squidy jelly, to rigid, clicky buttons. What does this mean for handsome folk you and me? It means all the speed and convenience of touch screens, but with fewer inaccuracies and silly– albeit amusing- typing mistakes. It could also mean that our beloved touch screens will become far more versatile in the future, not to mention becoming accessible to a much larger audience.

By now we’ve all had chance to play around with touch screens in some form or other. Since the birth of Apple’s iPhone, pretty much everyone and their mum can be seen tapping away at a handheld slab with a screen, and even modern-day computer operating systems have become so synonymous with touch-based input that many of us naturally assume that we can reach out and poke the screen to make something happen whether the feature is present or not.

Touch screens are undoubtedly convenient, but at times they can be awkward and, as anyone who’s tried ports of old games like Street Fighter 2 and Mega Man on a smart phone will know, incredibly inaccurate, often leaving us wishing we had at least a couple of physical buttons to press.

It looks like we may soon have the best of both worlds.

Using piezoelectric (piezo coming from the Greek for “push”) elements, the inside of the Kyocera’s new screens can be programmed to respond to different types of physical contact, in turn providing feedback that gives users the impression that they have touched or pressed down on something other than a simple glass screen. In simpler terms, a screen can be programmed to provide varying levels of resistance and mimic different textures.

Depending on the function or program, a single touch screen could at once feature squidgy buttons like bubble-wrap or even solid “clicks” like a light switch.

Imagine touching a link on a website and feeling the line of text sink into the screen by a millimetre or so, or switching off the alarm function on your phone every morning with a satisfying click. No more “I wonder why the page isn’t loading- maybe I didn’t click the link?” moments or fingers accidentally hitting keys on a virtual keyboard.

One of our reporters from RocketNews24 Japan had chance to try out the new touch screens at the expo last week and affirmed that this is no gimmick, saying:

“The buttons on the touch screen actually feel like like touching the real thing. Both older people who find virtual buttons tricky and who people who are get frsutrated by touch screens’ inaccuracies are sure to find this technology incredibly useful.”

The technology is likely to be implemented in everything from mobile phones and portables games consoles to in-car navigation panels and home electronics, and maker Kyocera estimates that up to 3 millions units featuring the screens will be available in the next five years.

Considering the amount of typos I make while using my iPhone, this writer at least is earnestly looking forward to the technology’s arrival. As much as we all love touch screens, physical buttons– be they for tapping out messages on a keyboard or helping an on-screen character jump– are sorely missed…

Source: ねとらぼ