The Future is Touchable

The world is getting more digital by the minute. And that’s not bad… I actually enjoy the way we innovate. But every three steps we move forward, we also move two back. One of the valuable things we lost thanks in exchange for digital interactions is tactility. Now let’s claim it back.

The benefits of tactility are clear: you feel what you are doing… Who couldn’t type text messages on his mobile phone without looking at it? And who doesn’t like the confident feeling a button makes when you actually feel and hear it click? Tactility gives us valuable feedback. Most of this is getting lost with new technologies. It is interesting to see how new technologies such as multitouch and augmented reality help us forget good user experiences… we tolerate the nuisance because of the coolness of the product.

The solution arrives

Fortunately user experience wins in the long run. What’s happening right now is that new technologies are being developed that give you back the feeling of interacting. Below you find two such technologies. The first one is very concrete, giving us tactile touch screens… Nokia is working on a similar technology called Haptikos. The other technology is developed in Japan and enables physical feedback in augmented reality. This technology has a whole new kind of potential. I already imagine myself playing games and getting physical feedback all over my body… feeling the impact of hitting a ball or playing a piano.

We are still at the beginning of this kind of tactile feedback. It will be years until we can mimic the current tactile feeling. The question is whether we need to mimic it, or can we introduce new feelings?

Jeroen van Geel

Jeroen van Geel is founder/chief kahuna of Johnny Holland and the interaction director at Fabrique [brands, design & interaction], a Dutch multidisciplinary design agency. You can follow him on Twitter via @jeroenvangeel.

3 comments on this article

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  2. Lennart Andersson on

    Amen brother! Tactility is an important part of the user experience. Interesting to see what will be perceived as “natural” tactile feedback in the future. Prototype and test is the best way to learn. The ultrasound feedback is cool!

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