Matter / Reality

An open study into the meaning of tactility in virtual and mixed-reality environments.



We have been inspired by the objects left behind on the surface of the moon. They are objects of our known world (feathers, golf balls, small sculptures) brought on extraterrestrial missions in order to quantify, understand and explore an unknown territory. Through these ad-hoc objects, astronauts were able to look at how the accepted behaviours and qualities of familiar items change or reveal themselves when applied to new spatial conditions. Today we would like to join a more contemporary space-race; the move towards comfortably blending our physical space with virtual environments. We are researching senses of tactility in virtual and MR environments. We believe there is a native mixed reality typology for architectural and object design, still waiting to be found. We hope that through designing objects and spaces which can absorb both physical and virtual realities at once, we can step closer to finding it.


John Cruwys, David Flook

& Paula Strunden


Project Type:

Competition proposal



In progress





Tactility is a hybrid sensation, derived not just from touch, but from all senses; sight, sound and smell included. When combined with other stimuli provided by virtual technologies, it can add a completely new dimension to the experience of our built environment. In this way, we shall embark on an open-ended taxonomic study through the contents of material and museum archives, and use our findings to define a new virtual tactility.

Falcon feather dropped alongside  a hammer on the surface of the moon to test Galileo's 'Law of Falling Bodies'. (Photo: NASA)

By responding to these pieces through creating objects and spaces of our own, we would hope to inspire new applications for nuanced hybrid digital materiality, while also casting a new mode of experiencing the previously concealed qualities of the source collections.

Fallen Astronaut Memorial Sculpture by Paul Van Hoeydonck (Photo: NASA)

We see a future in developing a design methodology that can expand the term touch through trying to heighten and mediate the types of information you could receive about an object or environment - passively relaying how it behaves, its provenance, its requirements, or even its mood.

Extra Vehicular Glove (Photo: NASA)

Could we get a sense of what it is like to touch things which exist at a completely non-human scale, or things that change their presence over time, or are so rare, delicate, or distant that no-one has ever felt them before? Through touch, could we better understand the pores of the earth’s surface, or the decaying smoothness of a blood-cell?

Left: Apollo 17 Lunar Module (Photo: NASA).

Right: Luna II Probe (Photo: RIAN Archive)