Towards mapping and applying haptics in user-product interaction and product development: An empirical and theoretical approach
Developing products for user-product interaction consists of many dimensions to consider for a product developer. The situations that occur when users start to explore and interact with a product are very complex; both mental and physical actions are engaged and our senses perceive and interpret the situations. The haptic sense refers to our sense of touch in a broad context, and comprises what people perceive in the skin, muscles, joints and tendons, as in user-product interaction to a high degree. The perceptions and interpretations obtained by the haptic sense contribute to how the product is experienced by the users in the range from specific product properties, such as weight etc., to more subjective parameters such as the overall quality impression, as well as how congruently the product conveys the information to the users senses. In the scientific and industrial area of product development, the haptic sense has not been treated in the development of products to the same extent as vision, for example, despite its importance.
This research projects main purpose is to understand and describe haptics and its relation to user-product interaction, and further to examine how it can be systematically managed and applied in product development work. In this thesis, the theoretical and empirical results produced so far have been interwoven into a framework. The aim with the framework is to provide a foundation for describing the importance of haptics in user-product interaction and product development. This can be useful for both science and industry. The research approach applied in this project has been a constant iteration between theoretical and empirical reasoning. Design research methodology (DRM) has been used to support the empirical work and systematically structure it. The criterion well-thought-out haptic properties in products will improve user-product interaction has served as the starting-point, and the rest of the work, research questions and appropriate research methods were derived from that statement.
Since haptics in relation to users and products, from the perspective presented in the research project, is a relatively new topic, this thesis first of all contributes new important information in the area of user-product interaction and product development. The haptic sense is described and the implications it can have for user-product interactions are examined, since it is a significant ingredient to be well aware of when developing products. It is also shown that haptics in user-product interaction plays an important role for how users experience both specific product properties and subjective parameters such as how well a product expresses its properties and describes its intentions. All these aspects together affect the users overall impression of the products quality and potential.
To implement haptics in product development, it has been found necessary to have supplementary information on the topic for industry and science. A common terminology is needed for all different professions that come into contact with haptics in one way or another in industry, so that they can communicate about all aspects of haptics. They need to keep a holistic view of the users and the products also because of the character of haptics, since specific product properties are as important as the overall impression of the product. Industry needs support in terms of guidelines, tools and methods that also must allow a holistic view. In order to systematically implement this in product development, an integrated product development process is recommended.