Themes/ Innovation: Tactile technology

Camille introduces us to some pioneering creatives who are exploring the technological area using our senses.

In a society where you can ask Alexa, Cortana or Siri to organise your life, answer a phone call with your watch, and experience virtual surroundings with a headset, you’d be forgiven for believing that our main interaction with technology is one that is purely for helping humans complete day-to-day tasks.

But what about using tech to amplify our senses or improve our sensory experiences? In the world of design, there are creative individuals, studios and agencies that are utilising technology in a tactile way to magnify how we see our relationship with tech. With the sensory experience at the heart of their projects, these practitioners are opening up new ways to use, perceive and experience technology in our lives.

Feature image credit: ‘Déguster l’augmenté’ – Erika Marthins x ECAL. Photographed by Younès Klouche


‘P-rouette’ – Hadar Neeman


Credit: Elior Ben Haim Photographers Group. Courtesy of Hadar Neeman.
Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design 2018 graduate, Hadar Neeman has challenged the lack of technology used in the design of ballet pointe shoes, which up until now have been manufactured traditionally, despite the many advances of technology in sportswear. Her graduating project 'P-rouette', appeals to the sense of touch, as these 3D printed shoes aim to improve the comfort level of ballerinas on their toes. The shoes are able to provide support for the feet as they are custom-made through 3D scanning and are printed with silicone-like polymers combined with textile.
Whilst the sculpting techniques help prevent injury to the dancers’ feet, the project also has a sustainable outlook as these shoes last three times longer than traditional ballet shoes. Watch the video to learn more about Neeman’s 'P-rouette' project and the process that goes into making these amazing shoes.


See more of Neeman’s work on her portfolio


‘DuoSkin’ – MIT Media Lab


Credit: Videography by Jimmy Day/ MIT Media Lab.
In collaboration with Microsoft Research, a team within the MIT Media Lab have been exploring the realm of wearable technologies that go beyond our external, wearable devices. Led by Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, this team of researchers have investigated how fashion and engineering can be combined to develop a series of temporary tattoos that communicate via the human body. In appearance, they are similar to flash tattoos, but pack a little more punch. The DuoSkin tattoos are made from a conductive gold metal leaf that responds to touch when connected to an electrical circuit. The team developed three prototype groups which interact with the body to produce different outcomes; the first can control electronic devices through touch, the second responds to bodily heat to change its appearance, and the third embeds near-field communication (NFC) tags which allow for NFC-enabled devices to read data that is stored on the skin via the tattoo. Watch the video to see the tattoos in action.


Read more about the DuoSkin project


The full list of collaborators for DuoSkin:

Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao

Asta Roseway

Christian Holz

Paul Johns

Andres Calvo

Chris Schmandt


‘Déguster l’augmenté’ – Erika Marthins x ECAL


Credit: Project by ECAL/Erika Marthins. Filmed and edited by Erika Marthins and Pauline Saglio.
In collaboration with ECAL (an art and design university based in Switzerland), interaction designer Erika Marthins presents the ultimate sensory tasting experience. Utilising the senses of taste, touch and sight in a way that differs from the expectation of food presentation, Marthins developed three desserts that can be interacted with beyond the action of eating. She calls this ‘Augmented Food’ as the desserts have been altered to maximise the interaction before, during and after eating them. By doing so, the project experiments with how technology can be used to tell a story or add new information to food.
In Marthins’ own words, the desserts have been augmented with technology in three different ways: “A wedding of sound and chocolate, poetry and lollipop, and animation and dessert.” Watch the video to see how technology has made these treats even tastier.


See more of Marthins’ work on her website


The full list of collaborators for ‘Déguster l’augmenté’:

Project by ECAL/Erika Marthins, in collaboration with Chef Fabien Pairon – Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, Rayform and Jun Shintake – Laboratory of Intelligent Systems(EPFL).

Special thanks to: Michel Ferla (EHL) and Dario Floreano – Director of Laboratory of Intelligent Systems(EPFL).

Tutors: Alain Bellet, Cyril Diagne, Gaël Hugo, Christophe Guignard, Cédric Duchêne.

Assistants: Laura Perrenoud, Tibor Udvari, Romain Cazier, Marc Dubois.

ECAL / University of Art and Design, Lausanne Switzerland, Bachelor Media & Interaction Design.


‘Wall of Sound’ – Ligalux


Credit: Ligalux.
Seeing as Ligalux won the 2018 Red Dot Communication Design Award for their 'Wall of Sound' installation, I’d say they’ve got good reason to dance!
Citing the project as a ‘visual experience installation’, Ligalux used conductive paint by Bare Conductive to create an interactive mural of various ghetto-blaster sound systems that actually play music. And it’s not the same song playing either, but a variety of sounds that can be controlled by pressing the painted buttons of the image. But what is conductive paint? Well, it’s pretty much what it says on the tin – it’s paint that allows electricity to flow through it. By connecting various electrical components such as a circuit board and wires (in addition to other pieces of hardware!), Ligalux managed to make a simple mural come to life. Watch the video for a quick run through of their making process and the final installation outcome.


See more of Ligalux’s work on their website

Interested in using conductive paint? Head over to Bare Conductive


‘Neclumi’ – panGenerator


Credit: Videography by Jakub Koźniewski.
According to panGenerator, the creative team behind the project, 'Neclumi' is the first ever projection-based interactive necklace. This project takes the approach of tactility to new realms, as it removes the sense of touch in favour of sight to ‘make’ jewellery. This project truly looks at the future of jewellery as it combines engineering with design to make a mini-projector that can be worn to push images of light on to the skin. But the team didn’t stop there; an accompanying app allows the projector to react to sound and movement, changing the pattern of the necklace in accordance to the wearers’ behaviour. Watch the video to see the 'Neclumi' project in full action.


Read more about the ‘Neculimi’ project


The full list of collaborators for ‘Neculimi’:

Piotr Barszczewski

Jakub Koźniewski


Interested in a career in design? Read more about some of the subject areas explored in this post:

BA (Hons) Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martins

BA (Hons) Fashion Jewellery at London College of Fashion

BA (Hons) Product Design at Central Saint Martins

BA (Hons) Interaction Design Arts at London College of Communication

BA (Hons) Interior and Spatial Design at Chelsea College of Arts

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