Architecture is one of the most unique fields out there. An architect needs to be not only a design engineering service but also an artist. They must take into account the natural phenomenon that their buildings may have to survive and whether it will look out of place where it is being built.
When planning a new building, whether it’s a family home or a skyscraper for a commercial giant, every angle needs to be considered. This doesn’t only mean how it looks or where it stands, but also how our other senses come into play.
In recent years, architects have been looking into the sense of touch, or haptics, and how they play a part in the design of a building.
When an architect takes touch into account, they help make the building that much more comfortable for the people who eventually use it. Let’s take a look at haptics and the role they play in architectural design services.
What Are Haptics in Architecture?
Haptics is anything you can touch, grasp, or wear as related to architecture. This might mean the handrail for the stairs or the buttons on an elevator. While these are basic examples, many architectural BIM services have gotten very creative about what can be touched or manipulated within their designs, opening new ways to make a building more interactive. We’ll talk more about these new ways of interacting later.
The ability to touch is something we take for granted, but it’s one of our most important senses. We have thousands of nerves in our skin throughout our body that help give us feedback about the world around us.
Adding touch to an architectural design can make it more user friendly and also more engaging. While you’re unlikely to remember the paint of an office you worked in years ago, if the color could be changed by touch, it would be a much more memorable experience.
Touch can augment a building and is worth looking at to see if it fits with your creative process.
Benefits of Haptics in Architecture
Sure, you can touch a wall and have it light up, but is that really different from flipping on a light switch? Interactive technology draws a user into the building’s experience, but there are several other benefits to using haptics during a design. These include:
Better Marketing Applications
Good haptics in a building are no less than stunning. The ability to interact with a design makes it far more memorable and feels a lot more progressive than an ordinary building. Marketing a building that can be controlled in such a way will be far more straightforward and bring more attention to everyone involved in the building.
When users can physically touch to interact with an interface, they are often more drawn into that interaction. A building that appeals to all the senses is unforgettable. Even if you’ve walked into a building thousands of times before and forgotten all of them, it’s likely you won’t forget the one that had a floor that lit up where ever you walked.
Although these details aren’t necessary to make a building useful or even enjoyable, changes like these can make the difference between an ordinary experience and an extraordinary one.
Better Design Itself
Haptics can also help by making it easier for interior design services and other team members to compare fabric and materials for a room in a whole different way. When colors or patterns can be changed with a touch, it’s much easier to see how they might look in a room and make designing that much more straightforward.
Challenges of Using Haptics
If adding a new sensory experience to a building was easy, more people would do it. There are, of course, challenges to adding haptics to architecture. The biggest challenge is that haptics are new. Studios have to develop new technologies that can be made to work in a new way and make people understand new technology.
As we talked about earlier, haptics needs to have a fast response time to be useful. Some types of haptics require internet connections, which can result in delays. Lag is always a problem when it comes down to new technology, but it poses a particular problem for haptics. Most haptic technology needs to have very little lag for people to understand what made it work.
Another common problem with haptics is that the technology needs to perceive the touch to function. While this is obvious, it’s often technically challenging to achieve this flawlessly every time. A lot goes into the ability of a piece of technology to be able to detect a touch. Consistency in achieving the result is essential.
Haptic Data Compression
Another common problem with haptics is that there is currently a lot of data loss, even with today’s current haptic technology developments. This can result in what a user interacting with a screen does and what they see on the screen.
To avoid a project being rendered entirely unusable, care and attention to data compression need to be taken into account from the start.
All of these problems are common issues with haptics, but they can be overcome. Knowing about them is half the battle and can help make creating new designs possible.
How Haptics Are Being Used in Architecture
Haptics has long been used in other fields. Video game designers found that they could make their games seem much more realistic simply by providing feedback through the controller. This might mean letting you feel how rough a road is as you are driving over it by sending vibrations that mimic the feel of a bumpy road. A first-person shooter suddenly becomes more realistic when you feel the kick of the rifle every time you fire.
Architecture isn’t always as simple, as all 3D architectural rendering services know. After all, how often do people touch the building walls or think about the texture of the floor? Touch has often been secondary at best when architects have designed a building, but that has started to change.
Various concept studios worldwide have started to experiment with haptics, and their results provide interesting feedback for users.
Examples of haptics include EJTech, a Budapest based studio that has created a textile called Chromosonic. This textile is unique because it can change color and pattern when it’s touched. The fabric responds to both heat energy and touch, making it an interesting and unique addition to an interior design.
Another mesmerizing example of haptics is CRYSTAL by Rotterdam, Netherlands–based studio Roosegaarde. CRYSTAL is a lighting installation on the floor that uses salt crystal lights that can be controlled through touch.
Many other studios are jumping on the bandwagon, with reactive multimedia systems that allow people to make sound, light, or other displays through touch. This adds a unique experience to the building and makes it more engaging and enjoyable for the people who use it.
Principles for Haptics in Architecture
Seeing the value in haptics is one thing, but adding them is another. Haptics are a relatively new frontier. Finding ways to add them into a building isn’t always straight forward. Fortunately, there are a few guidelines for making this easier.
Simplicity is Key
If a new way of interacting with the room isn’t intuitive, haptics probably won’t be used. When planning how haptics is to be used in a building, keep it as simple as possible.
Prompt Response Times
If you gesture to turn the light on, and the lights come on two minutes later, how does the person who made the gesture know what turned it on? For them to understand what they did to cause a reaction, the response needs to be prompt.
Similarly, haptics needs to respond to the user consistently for a person using them to understand that their interactions are causing the changes. Touch isn’t a commonly used form of interaction for 3D architectural visualization services yet, so the idea itself is abstract to most people.
To make the controls as straightforward as possible, the response needs to be consistent.
Think of the People Using It
Of course, the point of haptics is to give the people who use it a unique and hopefully positive experience. Yet, it’s not always easy to predict how people will respond to a new experience. Haptics should address the basic needs of a person first and be intuitive to their body to sense how it is operated.
Haptics is a growing addition to architecture. While interactive architecture is still relatively new, this field provides a unique new perspective on new construction. If you’re looking for something new to try in your design, adding haptics may be a good option.
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