Traces of Touch

A modular library of interactions for fast tangible exploration

We are increasingly starting to see new ways of interacting with physical devices in our everyday life. Different kinds of sensors that react to environmental factors such as light, sliding movement and tilt are becoming ubiquitous. This enables not only new and interesting possibilities for designers but also new exciting experiences for users.

The problem is that because of the abundance of options of different input models to choose from, it is getting harder to make an informed choice of what to use.

What kind of different emotions, feelings, mental mappings and metaphors does controlling a lamp with a slider versus a wheel support? Or maybe flipping it upside down to turn it off is the best option? How “clicky” should the button be to fit starting a song on a music device? All of these are commonly asked questions that take time and money to explore with existing physical prototyping platforms.

Traces of Touch addresses this by offering a modular system of inputs and outputs that enables fast iteration of different combinations and mappings – exploring how this changes the experience with the product in question. By connecting the input, the output directly identifies what kind of interactions are possible and configures itself accordingly. The protocol for creating new inputs and outputs is also openly available for manufactures to create their own modules to fit into the system, enabling a growing ecosystem of compatible devices.

This creates the opportunity for the designer to have a library of interactions to explore and test in different configurations along the same lines as the material libraries often used by industrial designers. A library that can be used either in brainstorming sessions to trigger and prototype new ideas or with clients to be able to speak the same language and narrow down the desired interaction faster.

Traces of Touch builds on existing projects that explore the importance of the design of switches, buttons, and handles, and takes these ideas further, creating a modular system to investigate today’s commonly available interactions in a simple and intuitive way.

Advisor: Gitte Jonsdatter