In The Eyes of the Skin (Wiley, 2012), Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa, Hon. FAIA, argues for an elevated appreciation of the sense of touch. “Touch is the sensory mode that integrates our experience of the world with that of ourselves,” he writes. “Even visual perceptions are fused and integrated into the haptic continuum of the self; my body remembers who I am and where I am located in the world.”

Design and architecture have always provided tactile experiences, but the sense of touch has not always been a primary focus. The same holds true for interfaces, or the controlled links between the physical world and virtual information. So-called haptic technology describes interfaces that provide tactile feedback to a user, such as vibrations generated through eccentric rotating mass actuators or linear resonant actuators (LRA)—devices common in game controllers or portable electronics. (For example, LRA powers Apple’s Taptic Engine.) However, haptic interfaces can now be found in other surfaces and elements in the built environment, often in combination with light, sound, and information generation.