The Phorm case adds rising buttons to your iPad Mini's keyboard

Tactus is finally bringing its practically magical rising touchscreen keyboard to a shipping product -- but right now it's only meant for iPad Mini owners. The company's Phorm cover looks like a typical iPad Mini case, but slide a switch on its rear and you'll see physical buttons morph into shape atop the tablet's keyboard. Slide it back, and the buttons disappear completely to reveal a flat screen (the case holds a bit of fluid to make its floating keyboard work). As you can imagine, it's something aimed directly at people who could never quite get the hang of touchscreen keyboards. Tactus CEO Dr. Craig Ciesla tells us that the case has helped testers improve their typing speed and accuracy, but the biggest improvement was in overall typing satisfaction. A bit of feedback goes a long way, it seems. You can preorder your very own Phorm today for $99, or snag one for $149 when it starts shipping this summer.

While it certainly looks cool, don't expect Phorm to give your iPad Mini the full power of a traditional keyboard. You're still tapping on the tablet's screen, and you can't just rest your fingers on the keyboard like you can on your laptop. Phorm's keyboard nubs basically act as guideposts for your fingers. In our brief time with the case, we found it a bit awkward to type out simple phrases. But Ciesla noted most people will likely need a bit of time to get adjusted to the case. And, as you'd expect, Phorm also offers all of the protection you'd expect from a tablet case. In fact, it does a better job than other cases at protecting your screen, since Tactus' technology adds a slightly elastic layer to the display.

So what's next for Tactus? Ciesla and the company's head of sales, RK Parthasarathy, tell me it's also working on an iPad Air case, though they'll likely wait until after Apple unveils the next version of its big tablet. Beyond that, Tactus is also seeking partners to integrate its technology right into tablets. We got a brief demonstration of one such Android tablet, which was able to make its keyboard rise up automatically whenever we had to plug in text. Intriguingly, Ciesla notes that swapping out that tablet's existing panel for Tactus' solution actually made it lighter.

Below, Ciesla gives us a close look at the Phorm case, as well as the prototype Android device they've cooked up:

Phorm iPad Mini Case Hands-on