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Keyboard bubbles up from touch screen on demandWhen it comes to typing on mobile devices, most of us grin and bear it. We correct the typos, we laugh at the autocorrections, but let's face it -- we're frustrated. Would a physical keyboard ease our pain? CNET's Sumi Das tries out a new user interface...
-We love our smartphones and tablets, but typing on them? Not so much. If a fat fingered mistake doesn't get you, then an autocorrect gaffe will. While Blackberry's fate may be up in the air, one thing is certain. Plenty of people love its signature QWERTY keyboard. That love combined with a frustration of touchscreen typing led to this Silicon Valley startup. Textus Technology has developed a new kind of keyboard. Now you see it. Now you don't. This working prototype is still being refined but you get the idea one moment the touchscreen is flat. But when you need to type, the keys bubble up. The technology that makes it happens? Microfluidics. -Basically, when you take a panel. We have some small channels that run throughout that panel and we fill those channels with the fluid. The fluid makes the channels invisible. To make buttons, we simply increasing on a fluid that makes the top surface rise up. -If you touch keys, you're less likely to make a mistake. -You need two things to type well. You need confirmation and you need orientation. And either way of having a fingers figure out where they should be to make sure they're on the right space. -So how does the keyboard feel? Well, that depends. The buttons could feel soft, kind of like a gel pack. But you can also increase the fluid pressure making the buttons feel much harder, more like a real plastic keys. Given that the panel contains liquid. I wondered if there was a danger of springing a leak. -The fluid that we use is non-toxic, non-conducting. So even in the most catastrophic situation, it's fine. And it doesn't hurt the underlying device. But we go through break legs to make sure that our device is very durable and reliable. -The Microfluidics panel replaces the top layer of a display screen and Textus says, it won't add extra weight or thickness. So the technology could work with any touchscreen device. Imagine a smarter universal remote. If you're watching a DVD, only the buttons you need appear. No fumbling for the right button out of that dozens available. And now that most cars have displays in the center console, drivers could use the tech. -You can provide guidance so user can keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel for as long as possible and hopefully increases safety of the vehicle. -Textus has announced just one deal so far. With display manufacturer Touch Revolution. The on-demand keyboard should pop up in products by year's end. Then, consumers can get a feel for it themselves. In Freemont California, I'm Sumi Das, CNET.com for CBS News.