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Network World - With Apple's annual Worldwide Developer Conference just days away, the yearning iOSphere seethes with rumors, alarums and frights.
This week: touchscreens you can feel, really feel; rumor sites happily boost Liquidmetal's stock price for no good reason; high hopes for a high-definition front camera; and no one will care that iPhone 5 won't be showing up on prepaid carriers' inventory anytime soon.
You read it here second.
"But if this [dynamically tactile touchscreen] really is a hot technology, there's a great chance Apple will rush to get its
recently-granted patent into its next iPhone, which is expected to arrive in September or October."
-- Dave Smith, International Business Times, following the iOSphere logic that whenever an Apple patent is published by the U.S. government, there's a "great chance" the patent's technology will appear in the next iPhone five months later.
This rumor, as with so many, is based on the deep belief that every Cool Technology flows toward Apple as water flows downhill. It's a variant of the belief that every patent awarded to Apple reveals something that will appear in the very next iDevice, even if it's just weeks away from an expected launch.
A variety of news outlets picked up on a new tactile touch-screen technology unveiled this week at the SID Display Week trade show by a Fremont, Calif.-based startup, Tactus Technology. Using something called "microfluidics," Tactus replaces the conventional top layer of a touch screen with a flexible membrane. Tiny amounts of special oil are pumped through tiny channels in the membrane, "inflating" the keys and buttons of, for example, a qwerty keyboard. You actually have "real" keys to press. When you're done, the oil drains away and the membrane, in theory, flattens out and disappears, to become a flat touch screen again.
It all sounds impossibly complex, but The Verge's Nathan Ingraham was favorably impressed, talking with Tactus CEO and co-founder Craig Ciesla and actually handling a prototype, single image based on an Android smartphone.
In his post, Ingram says the channels are "invisible, for the most part." He also writes about the actual experience of touching the screen: "The key outlines did provide some feedback as to where individual keys start and end, but the physical act of 'pressing' a key didn't provide much feedback yet. Much of the time, it felt as though the capacitive touchscreen was triggered before you had a chance to feel the travel of the fluid-filled area. ... Still, once you notice the outlines of where the keys appear and disappear, they're hard to un-see (though we expect future versions will more naturally integrate the microfluid channels)."
Those qualifications alone, given Apple's obsession with industrial design and UI details, never mind Tactus' clear statement that first products won't be available until mid-2013, make it clear you can forget about this innovation appearing this year on the iPhone 5.