Someday in the future—let's say the year 2043—you might be using a tablet. Maybe it's the iPad 33, or the Samsung Galaxy Nexus 10.7857342. One second, you're browsing the internet, sliding your finger across the screens smooth surface. Then you realize need to fire off an email. At your command, a 3D, physical, haptic keyboard bubbles up almost magically, letting you fire off your correspondence sans difficulty. When this happens, it could be because of the technology Tactus is working on today.

According to the Verge's Nathan Ingraham, the tactus touchscreen prototype uses microfluidics to accomplish this feat. Beneath the outer surface of the screen, which appears to be a plastic membrane, are channels for a special oil to flow into reservoirs reserved for the keys of your keyboard. When flat, Ingraham says the channels are barely perceptible. Of course, this being a very very early prototype (and a nascent concept in general), the only pattern the screen can form is that of a QWERTY keyboard in landscape orientation. The idea is to someday be able to form multiple patterns in varying orientations, but for now the company is just trying to get the idea off the ground.

This Physical Keyboard Magically Appears and Disappears on Top of TouchscreensS

The company hopes to make the pressure of the keys customizable, and allow those keys to be pressure sensitive. Also promising is the fact that over the course of an average day, this technology would only drain 2-3 percent of a device's battery, making it realistic to implement. And though there are plenty of other hurdles to clear before we see this in consumer products, this is a promising glimpse at the future. [Tactus via The Verge]