There's a new iPad mini keyboard case available that's unlike anything you've ever used. It allows physical keyboard bubbles to morph and surface on your touchscreen when you need to type.
The case is called Phorm, and it's from Tactus Technology. There are three pieces involved: a back cover that snaps onto the rear of your tablet, a clear middle layer that goes over the tablet's display, and a front bezel. The middle layer features a "microfluidics" technology, in which bubble-like keys are able to raise up on your touchscreen.
The middle layer is a semi-elastic surface that is a millimeter thick, and it has built-in channels filled with a non-toxic, non-flammable liquid. When you need to type, slide the on/off switch on the case's back cover into the "on" position, then the case will apply pressure to the built-in channels, and allow the non-toxic liquid to surface as bubble-like keys.
The bubble keys will appear over your iPad mini's virtual keyboard, thus creating physical keys and potentially bettering your typing experience. When you want the bubbles to disappear, slide the on/off button into the "off" position. The general consensus of reviews online seem to suggest the case isn't bulky and that the slider switch is well-placed.
The bubbles keys, which are called finger guides, apparently have a tactile feel and take a second or two to appear. They'll also only work in portrait mode, but landscape support is coming for certain products. Tactus wants to release an an iPhone 6 Plus case in August, followed by cases for the iPad Air and the iPhone 6. Android cases are coming in 2016.
Tactus has been working on the technology for five years and regularly attends industry events, such as CES 2014, but it's only now launching a consumer product. (Phorm is still labeled as a prototype, though.) Preorders begin today, with an introductory price of $99. The regular price will be $149, and cases should start shipping this summer.
One last thing: Tactus said it's exploring ways to improve mobile gaming, and it also plans to do something with braille one day for the visually-impaired market. Watch Phorm's promo video above for more details.