Touchy-Feely Speakers Hint at the Future of Haptic Interfaces

Touchscreens are flat and hard by necessity—thanks to their dense layers of glass, conductive metal, and capacitors. But as haptic interfaces start to appear in commercial gadgets, touchscreen devices are poised to become even more… touchy. Enter Eunhee Jo, a Korean designer who’s spending the next year as a designer in residence at London’s Design Museum, and who specializes in haptic interfaces.

You might remember Jo from a project she unveiled last year, called the Tangible Textural Interface, which embedded touchscreen functionality directly on the soft fabric of a speaker system. This year, as part of a residency program at the Design Museum, she’s refining that concept into a workable product. Unveiled on the museum’s website this week, Surface Matters is a new prototype that looks like a set of two circular, desktop speakers. In fact, only one is a speaker—the other is a tactile control system that lets the user modulate volume, track, and audio style by pressing into a soft fabric surface—behind which, a motion sensor captures the gestures performed on the surface.