Categorized | Featured, Tablet News

Could your next tablet be a shape shifter?

With the honourable exception of Asus's weird, wacky and superbly clever tablet designs, most of today's tablets are monolithic blocks of glass and plastic or glass and aluminium. That makes them sleek, strong and desirable, but it also makes them impossible to touch-type on - and if you've got big meaty hands used to bashing traditional keys, they can be uncomfortable to type on too. But that might not be the case for long, because future tablets might morph into keyboards, game controllers or anything else you might like.

We haven't been on the cheese before bedtime again: this is real technology, with firms including IBM, Microsoft and Apple spending hefty sums on making the technology work.

According to Gizmag, IBM has filed a patent for an on-screen keyboard that "would alter the size, shape and location of keys to suit an individual's physical anatomy, such as finger size, length and range of motion." If you have little piano fingers you'd get a small, delicate keyboard; if you have the fists of a heavyweight boxer you'd get something more substantial.

IBM's idea takes care of the comfort, but other firms are working on making tech tactile - that is, making our screens something we feel as well as look at. Apple has filed patents for a keyless keyboard that uses acoustic pulses to let you know when you've touched something, while New Scientist reports that scientists in Illinois' Northwestern University are experimenting with vibrating screens that can simulate the feel of different textures. One firm, Helsinki-based Senseg, reckons that one day when we online shop we'll be able to "feel" the fabrics we're looking at.

The most interesting idea comes from startup Tactus Technology, who think touchscreens will be able to grow whatever input devices we need - a keyboard for email, a D-pad for games and so on. The firm, NFCdata.com reports, has "had discussions" with firms including Apple, Samsung and Nokia.

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