Meet Phorm, the invisible touchscreen cover that morphs into a physical keyboard

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Tablets and touch-sensitive displays in general are boss, right? But beyond a short text message or URL, the keyboards are a bit pants (especially for people like me whose fingers seem to morph into bananas when texting). That’s about to change: thanks to Phorm, you can have all the delights of a touch-sensitive display and all the accuracy of a physical keyboard.

I’m not talking about attaching a Bluetooth physical keyboard. Phorm is a new transparent overlay for the iPad that actually morphs into a 3D, physical keyboard when you need to type (and you don’t have to keep removing and re-attaching it – just put it in place and leave it). This is seriously cool: once you need to use the keyboard, a flip of a physical switch on the Phorm overlay causes small transparent bubbles to rise over the digital keys (one per key).

Instantly, that tactile problem of not being able to physically tell where one digital key ends and the next one begins is gone: the bumps make all the difference, effectively converting the flat touch keyboard into a physical one for as long as you need it (flip the switch back and the bubbles disappear).

What looks like a simple protective case morphs as if by magic into the ‘bubbleboard’ courtesy of the genius technology of “microfluidics” developed by Phorm’s manufacturer, Tactus Technology. Microfluidics lie in invisible channels beneath the transparent surface of the Phorm cover (itself just 1mm thick), bubbling up when you need to type and disappearing when you’re done. The button at the back increases pressure on the fluid, causing the bubbles (or “finger guides”, as Tactus calls them) to rise.

The Phorm was unveiled at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show but Tactus has just announced that it’s now ready to take pre-orders. An iPhone 6Plus case is scheduled for August, followed by one for the iPhone 6 and iPad Air, and Android accessories are in the pipeline.


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