'Phorm' Case Adds Morphing Tactile Keyboard to iPad Mini

For the last several years, Tactus Technology has been working on displays that take advantage of microfluidic technology, with buttons that raise up and disappear on demand for a superior touchscreen typing experience.

As of today, the company is ready to unveil its first product to the world, an iPad mini case called "Phorm." An all-in-one case, keyboard, and screen protector, Phorm can dynamically add and remove tactile buttons on the iPad mini's screen to add texture to the on-screen keyboard.


As seen in the video above, sliding the bar on the back of the Phorm case to the right causes small fluid-filled physical buttons to pop up on the screen protector portion of the case, giving users a tactile typing experience while still allowing them to use the default iOS keyboard. Shifting the bar to the left causes the buttons to disappear again, allowing the touchscreen to be used as normal.

phormupclose
Here's how it works: there are a series of small channels filled with fluid behind an elastomeric panel (aka the screen protector portion of the case) and when activated by the slider, pressure is introduced, causing the fluid to come up through the channels and into holes, where it presses against the elastomer, physically changing and morphing the display portion of the case to create buttons. In the opposite slider position, the pressure is released and the buttons disappear as the liquid is dispersed back into the channels.

microfluidics
According to Tactus Technology CEO Craig Ciesla and CTO Micah Yairi, who spoke to MacRumors ahead of Phorm's launch, the case uses a tiny amount of fluid that poses no harm to an iPad should it be dropped or damaged in some way. In fact, the Tactus team extensively tested the Phorm, performing drop tests, scratch tests, and more, and found that the case and its protective front panel provide solid protection for an iPad and can potentially keep the glass from shattering if dropped.

Ciesla and Yairi said that usability was one of the most important aspects Tactus considered when developing the Phorm case. In internal and third-party testing with people aged 19-70 with a wide range of hand sizes, 70 percent preferred the Tactus solution to a touchscreen.

phorm2
The Phorm case is meant to stay on an iPad all the time, alleviating the need to switch cases and accessories regularly to accommodate different tasks. As Ciesla and Yairi pointed out, the Phorm offers several benefits over a Bluetooth keyboard -- there's no battery drain, there's no need to charge it, and it provides access to all built-in iOS keyboard features like word prediction and spell correction, with the addition of tactile feedback for faster typing.

"We built Phorm so tablet users will never again have to choose between thin stylish devices with touchscreens and amazing usability," said Dr. Craig Ciesla, CEO and co-founder of Tactus. "Typing on a flat touchscreen is still a really unnatural user experience. Adding a tactile dimension to an otherwise flat surface changes the way we will interact with all the screens in our lives. This is just the beginning."

The Phorm case for the iPad mini can be pre-ordered today from the Phorm website for the introductory price of $99, and orders are expected to ship in the summer of 2015. There are two colors available -- slate gray, designed for the space gray iPad mini, and sky gray, designed for the silver iPad mini.

Currently, Phorm is only available for the iPad mini, but the Tactus Technology team has plans to launch an Phone 6 Plus Phorm case in the near future. Phorm cases for iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6 are also in the product pipeline.

Tag: Phorm

Top Rated Comments

MartinAppleGuy Avatar
118 months ago
I don't mean to break it, but what if your a landscape typer? I guess that's saved for v.2.0 :P
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FrizzleFryBen Avatar
118 months ago
What is this sorcery?
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
decimortis Avatar
118 months ago
The hint of a smirk on the guy in the video leads me to believe he thinking "Buy this, suckers. Buy it!" through the whole video.

D.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NYR99 Avatar
118 months ago
While it's a pretty cool technology, do people actually still have problems with touchscreen keyboards anymore?
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AppleInLVX Avatar
118 months ago
I always wanted to add a switch to my iPad to give it herpes... :p

Sorry... I'll leave now. ;)
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mikbeth Avatar
118 months ago
While it's a pretty cool technology, do people actually still have problems with touchscreen keyboards anymore?

They're still less then ideal, I can probably type on a real keyboard four times as fast then on a virtual one. While this seems like an early technology in the process, having tactile displays would be amazing for games, art, etc. In this case I do think having a little more feedback as to where the button is could help, we'll see if this iteration does it.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

General Apps Messages

Apple Announces 'Groundbreaking' New Security Protocol for iMessage

Wednesday February 21, 2024 6:00 am PST by
Apple today announced a new post-quantum cryptographic protocol for iMessage called PQ3. Apple says this "groundbreaking" and "state-of-the-art" protocol provides "extensive defenses against even highly sophisticated quantum attacks." Apple believes the PQ3 protocol's protections "surpass those in all other widely deployed messaging apps," according to its blog post:Today we are announcing...
iOS 17

iOS 17.4 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Monday February 19, 2024 6:52 am PST by
Apple last month confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released in March, and the update includes several new features and changes for the iPhone. Key new features in iOS 17.4 include major App Store changes in the EU and Apple Podcasts transcripts. The update also adds new emoji and includes preparations for the launch of next-generation CarPlay later this year. More details about the new...
samsung galaxy ring

'Apple Ring' Allegedly in Development to Rival Samsung Galaxy Ring

Tuesday February 20, 2024 2:27 am PST by
Apple is speeding up development of a smart ring that can be worn on the finger to track users' health biometrics, claims a new report coming out of Korea. Teaser image of Samsung Galaxy Ring shown at Galaxy Unpacked in January Apple has toyed with the idea of a ring wearable for several years, as indicated by several patents, but with Samsung preparing to bring its own product to market, the ...
volvo s60 drivers apple maps

iOS 17.4 Beta Adds CarPlay Option to Show Upcoming Maneuvers in Instrument Cluster

Tuesday February 20, 2024 10:47 am PST by
The fourth beta of iOS 17.4 that Apple released today adds a new CarPlay feature, according to the notes that Apple provided to developers. In supported CarPlay vehicles, there's now an Apple Maps option to show information about upcoming maneuvers in the instrument cluster. CarPlay users will be able to swap the display type between the main and instrument cluster by tapping on the map...
m3 macbook pro 14 16

Apple Now Selling Refurbished M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook Pro Models

Monday February 19, 2024 5:04 pm PST by
Apple today began offering refurbished versions of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M3 Pro and M3 Max chip options, offering the machines at a discount for the first time since their October 2023 release. The release of M3 Pro and M3 Max models on Apple's refurbished store comes almost two weeks after the entry-level 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro first appeared on the store....
iPad Pro OLED Feature 2

Apple's Upcoming OLED iPad Pro Models Rumored to Be Much Thinner

Tuesday February 20, 2024 1:39 pm PST by
Apple is planning to update the iPad Air and iPad Pro lineups as soon as March, and the new iPad Pro models will be significantly thinner according to dimensions shared by 9to5Mac. Citing sources with knowledge of Apple's plans, the site claims that the larger version will be more than 1mm thinner. The current 12.9-inch iPad Pro measures in at 6.4mm thick, but the new model is said to be 5mm ...
apple wallet drivers license feature

Apple Said iPhone Driver's Licenses Will Expand to These 8 U.S. States

Monday February 12, 2024 7:51 am PST by
In 2021, Apple introduced a feature that lets residents of participating U.S. states add their driver's license or ID to the Wallet app on the iPhone and Apple Watch, providing a convenient and contactless way to display proof of identity or age. Unfortunately, states have been slow to adopt the feature since it was first announced in September 2021, with IDs in the Wallet app only available ...
Oled iPads and MackBook Pro Notch

Apple's OLED Roadmap: New iPad Mini, Foldable iPad Pro, and More

Wednesday February 21, 2024 5:29 am PST by
Apple is planning to launch at least nine new devices with OLED displays across the iPad and MacBook product lines, according to an updated forecast from research firm Omdia that sets out the company's plans in detail. As widely rumored, Apple's push to transition to OLED will apparently be jump-started by the release of new 11- and 13-inch iPad Pro models this year. The displays will...