Alena Deisenhofer


I want to explore the haptic sensations of humans. How can we use them and how can they be altered or manipulated.

In packaging and industrial design the surface and haptic sensation of an object is of high importance. Every object around you has a characteristic surface. My question is: How important is the “right” – meaning: the expected – haptic feedback and what happens if we alter or manipulate that surface?

I want to confuse or irritate people by exposing them to everyday objects which have their surface/weight/feedback/sound/movement etc. changed.


Receptors in the skin

The left sandpaper is smooth, the right has a very abrasive surface.


Touch with both hands the two different pieces of sandpaper above.


Then touch with both hands the piece below.

It will “feel” different on your fingers but it is the same abrasive surface. The sensors in your skin have adapted to a different sensory stimulus. The left hand is adapted to a smooth surface, the right hand to a rough surface.

Phantom Bodyparts

You need: a “Hand”, two brushes and two persons.


You feel brush on your hand and not on the plastic hand.

I tried it without the plastic hand and with a mirror.


You feel the brush on the right hand and on the hand behind the mirror.


Clear assignment?

We associate colors with temperature.

hot and cold

Red is hot and blue is cold ? Is it?

If you touch something blue and hot you are confused in the first second. The same happens if you touch a red cold one.


You all know how heavy a toothbrush is and you know it before you brush your teeth.


Weight: 10 g


I added some weights.


If you put it up now, you would be confused.



I want some smooth turn into hard.


Left feels like velvet. On the right you think it is sandpaper.


Turn a napkin into “stone” ;). Two tests with cotton and paper.

1. Cotton

2. Paper


Change the sound of something you know. (I hope you know what I mean, the video its the best ^^)

vibrating egg

An egg is an fixed object? What do you think if it vibrates?





Now I am on the point where I want to realize…

I don’t want to use everyday objects. I take now just some shapes like a ball or a ashlar so the abstraction is bigger.
Maybe all in white, because with each color we connect something!

1. Weight














Two ideas:

First:  the big one is lighter and the small heavier. This is what you don’t expect. And the big one is heavier and the small on lighter.

Second three balls in the same size but in white, grey and black! You think the black is the heaviest? All got the same weight! OR the white one is the heaviest and the black the lightest!















Now I got some problems with the realization of my projects. It was too much I wanted to do. So I had to break it down from 8 ideas into 4. This is realistic to implement.
1. weight

2. sound

3. temperature

3. surface



all-metal bullets




The big one is I think 4kg.






















4 materials which have a different sound ( partly minimal).











es härtet noch aus!





just some sketch how it could be exhibited!




View from above






How the Process could be pictured:



My projet is very clear and without unnecessary things, so the process should hang about it so the focus is on the things ON the table.



to be or not to be (vorläufiger Titel)

super short:

I want to explore the haptic senses of humans. How can we use them and how can they be altered or manipulated. The eyes will not be able to see the difference between the objects so the people had to use their hands to feel it.


In packaging and industrial design the surface and haptic senses of an object is very important. Every object around us has a characteristic surface.
My question is: How important is the “right” – meaning: the expected – haptic feedback and what happens if we alter or manipulate that surface? So I want to confuse and irritate people by exposing them to objects which all look identical so you can’t see any difference between them, but you can feel it. The people have to touch and to interact with the objects to understand it.


  1. The experiments are an excellent start. Even without having tried them myself I am sure they offer surprising sensual experiences. What is the next step? Is it about gaining valuable insights for interface designers? If yes, how can they translate their experiences with these setups into their design practice? Do you already have an idea what a final result might look like?

  2. Like I told you already, i would love exploring objects that trick me by their weight!
    The visual appearance of material and the Feedback of the weight could cause much more interesting situations?!
    How can the weight of objects change their value or their usefullness? Packaging sometimes has non usefull additional weight to increase the value, but maybe you find something more “intelligent”!
    But thats my Favorit Experiment, i would suggest focusing on 2 senses or experiments and exploring the possible varity!

    1. I was thinking of a way you could trick your bodily sensation of gravity/weight. And I had to think about this little magic trick everybody of us knows where you press your arms against the door frame for some time, then step one step back and they magically lift…
      I found this video, and trick 2 and 3 might be interesting…

  3. Thanks everybody!

    My favorite is also the one with the weight and with the surface (napkin).
    And I ask me the same questions as you Regina : How can the weight / surface of objects change their value and usefullness? What happend with the object if it is changed and how reacts the user.

    And Daniel, I love these little tricks ! I also tried it out on the weekend and I’m each time suprised how “simple” it is to manipulate our body. But to bring the manipulation of objets and body together is difficult..

    I’m on the “thinking-mode” again…but the topic now is smaller!

  4. I think, the „abstract“ or „neutral“ objects are the way to go. Your weight example looks promising. It will be crucial to also spend effort in additional explanations in the form of text and / or illustrations. Those could a) give us some insight in what is happening in our perception and b) conclusions for designers on what they might want to keep in mind when designing physical interfaces. (For instance the colour or size of an object might communicate an affordance which is connected to weight.)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *