On the Genealogy of the “Taptic Engine” as a Haptic Human-Computer Interface

The project excavates the history of a haptic feedback mechanism – now refined and owned by Apple – that creates the illusion of a push button on a plain surface. Through the so-called “taptic engine” both engineering and programming play with human sensory perception, offering a synesthetic interface that resembles the (more familiar) mechanical one. This artificial button does not answer to a technological problem, it only caters to human perception. Therefore, the taptic engine may be considered as not just a “haptic assistant” – but as an effect which equips virtual processes with material qualities through interaction. Based on these assumptions, the project seeks to develop a new perspective on the field of human-computer interaction and offer an alternative idea of users and their “in/abilities”. Because, as the history of the taptic engine shows, early development of user interfaces (Brooks, 1990) was generally driven by a concept of understanding in the sense of grasping.