Red from the Red Ferret Journal got his hands on a demo of "Haptikos," a haptics touch feedback system from Nokia that makes typing on a touchscreen keyboard feel something like the real thing.
The problem in perfecting the tech – codenamed Haptikos, meaning ‘to touch’ – lies in how our fingers experience a key press. We actually feel two movements, in and out, and these movements and the associated audio have to be perfectly attuned to the speed and responsiveness of a real keyboard. In use, the touch feedback on the demo device was near on perfect. Each press of a key returned a clunky click and tactile snap on the touchscreen, which made typing feel incredibly responsive and very usable on the smooth screen surface. In fact it was hard to remember that you were using a touchscreen keyboard.
The Haptikos technology will be first available to customers in the upcoming iPhone-fighting "Touch" phone from Nokia, but if it's as transformative as Red implies, I'd expect to see it in most mid- to high-end Nokia phones soon.
Relatedly, Crave.CNET.co.uk is claiming they've confirmed that Apple is building a tablet PC. Presuming that's true, I wonder if an Apple tablet will forgoe a keyboard entirely for something similar. Apple has already filed a patent for a similar system, although theirs actually involves manipulating the physical surface of a display.