Researchers design OLED panel with inflatable keyboard 2023

Perhaps the lack of a physical keyboard on modern smartphones is the feature that people lament the most. In the past, BlackBerry devices were so popular because they provided an unparalleled type experience. Future Interfaces Group researchers have been working on a remedy for the past 15 years and have recently made a significant breakthrough.

Using inflatable buttons, the Flat Panel Haptics technology provides tactile feedback on a flat surface. The FPH has a thickness of 5 millimeters and an Embedded Electro-Osmotic Pump. Using an electrical current to activate the small pumps, the fluid pushes onto the surface of the flexible screen to produce a 5-millimeter-thick rigid button.

Researchers design OLED panel with inflatable keyboard 2023 2

Scientists develop an OLED display with a detachable inflatable keyboard.

In the video, FIG demonstrates a prototype with a flexible silicone surface on top of the OLED panel, similar to the surface used on foldable smartphones today.

Due to the fact that the surface can be inflated and deflated on demand, there are practical implications beyond physical keyboards. For example, the display can magnify an app icon or a specific UI element to assist impaired users with navigation.

In their published paper, researchers identify a number of technological limitations. One is the inadequate durability of the buttons in question. The system’s energy requirements and its thickness are problematic. Tablets, which are typically bulkier and have larger batteries, may be the first to incorporate the new technology.

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