This one came up via the chatroom of yesterday's Sonic TALK episode 300 - thanks to Suva in the chatroom for posting the link.
The Tactus touchscreen can grow buttons on demand and is completely reconfigurable so these buttons actually rise up from the surface on demand and recede back into the screen when your done. I know it sounds a bit Sci-Fi, but check the video, it actually works.
One of the thigks about touchscreen technology is that there's no mechanical or haptic feedback, this makes it pretty much essential that you are looking at where your fingers are going all the time. With this sort of technology, it could move the whole concept on from where we are. Possibly. Presently this is built into demonstration units only, Tactus Technology are looking to get their screens built in at the point of manufacture, they dont actually make these devices themselves.
Of course there are considerations - the keyboard on my laptop is wearing out after months of typing on it, what would happen to the areas of the screen where there are buttons which have many repetitious presses - would they wear out? How much cost would it add to a device?
Can you see any musical uses for this?
Prototype alert, Karplus Strong in the house