Happy Feedback Machine


Design Purpose

To create an interactive art sculpture/ toy/ device that makes people want to push buttons. What is this attraction? Why do we get pleasure from pushing buttons? The Happy Feedback Machine poses these questions while simultaneously satisfying those urges.


1) Create desire to play with its many buttons and switches
2) Fulfill that desire and give users tactile satisfaction.

Use Case Storyboard

Happy Feedback Machine flow diagram.

Interface Inspirations

Our lives are filled with objects containing buttons, switches, meters, knobs, & etc that we love to touch.

Cardboard Prototype / Initial User Test

A quick proof of concept to test user interest. I found people were strongly attracted to the buttons and switches despite the jenky cardboard interface. People wanted to play with the buttons because it was fun, especially the switches which provided strong, satisfying haptic feedback.


Realizing the success of the project depended on the quality and attractiveness of the buttons/ swtiches, I went all out and purchased a huge variety of quality knobs, switches, buttons, lights, meters, cables, sound chips & etc. Most of which I purchased from Leeds Radio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn- a great source for mechanical parts.
The key equation: higher quality components = higher quality of user expereience.


With all the parts at my disposal, I sketched out an interface that would highlight the buttons and attract people's attention and curiousity. The Happy Feedback Machine screams, "Touch me!"

happy feedback machine sketch


Started out with 1/8" sheets of wood, which I laser cut to fit the custom components.

Wiring the buttons, switches, meters, lights & etc was incredibally time consuming.

The frame and underlying structure. Chiseled out holes for the power plugs in the side panels.

Half way done. Brought machine in for user testing, which was very successful. Users enjoyed playing with the buttons despite the lack of power and audio/visual feedback.

User Testing at ITP Spring Show '07

The ITP Spring show allowed me to user test with a large quantity & variety of people: young, old, distracted, enthusiastic, curious, cynical, etc.

It was clear, people were intrigued and attracted to the Happy Feedback Machine.

Some people had really strong reactions.

The Happy Feedback Machine was great for multiple users- a source of shared experiences and conversation.

Kids absolutely loved the Happy Feedback Machine. One boy came back three seperate times.


The Happy-Feedback-Machine was completely successful in creating and fullfilling the desire to play with its' buttons. People of all ages were intrigued by the interface and many users wanted to own the machine.

The question that came up the most, "What does it do?". The large majority of people understood the purpose and merit of providing tactile satisfaction. They really enjoyed playing with the buttons and found a lot of satisfaction in the process. There were people who "snubbed" the machine because it didn't do more. Perhaps they expected it to do something amazing, or to be more practical.

  • The Happy Feedback Machine was on display at the Interactive Telecommunications Program from 2007-2008.
  • It was featured in Tom Igoe's book "Making Things Talk" in the sections: "It Starts with the Stuff You Touch" and "It Ends with the Stuff You Touch".
  • It has been invited to be displayed at the New Media/ Film & TV Studies department at NYU.

If you are interested in the project, have questions or commments, please email me kidmang@yahoo.com