“Haptics” is the design philosophy of making products that we interact with through touch, rather than buttons or dials. A good example at work: A new speaker concept, designed by Parisian industrial designer Arnaud Lapierre.
The Wi-Fi enabled speaker would hook up to any audio device. But you change the volume in a unique way: On the outside of the speaker is an elastic sleeve, that baffles the sound. By stretching or compressing it, you expose openings that modulate how loud the speaker is. So the haptic design does two things: Provides a new, intuitive way to interact with a speaker, and provides a subtle, immediately obvious visual cue of the speaker’s volume.
Another of Lapierre’s concepts is a speaker covered with a thin membrane onto which water can be poured. Light shines underneath, producing a light show from the speaker’s sound waves. It’s like an audio skin on an MP3 player, but totally analog.
Neither of these designs is in production yet, though the water speakers are planned for an installation sometime in 2009.
If you’re interested in other, truly poetic haptic concepts, check out the Haptic exhibition, curated by Kenya Hara, the creative director of Muji. (The exhibition is where the gel remote control was originally shown, four years ago.)