This is the “touch screen generation” that grows with various touch devices. They may even know nothing about the buttons, and the physical buttons are dying.

In many childhoods of the 1980s and 1990s, the mechanical structure of the buttons not only opened up our contact with technology products, but also left many fond memories.

At that time, most people’s first mobile phones were not touch screen mobile phones. Many people practiced the skills of blindly playing without looking at the keyboard. With the advent of the touch screen era, this skill has gradually disappeared. However, when the physical button is gradually “destroyed”, many devices will also feedback the touch of the simulated physical keyboard through the vibration.

Magic button

Although the first device that uses buttons has not been tested, the buttons have been an indispensable mechanical structure for electronic products for a long time. The buttons also greatly simplify people’s perception of technology products, turning those complex functions into one button.

Kodak’s advertisement for The Kodak Brownie is based on the button:

You press the button and the rest of the things we do. (You press the button, we do the rest.

In the 19th century, taking pictures was still a very complicated matter. Not only was the camera quite cumbersome, but also the exposure time was calculated in minutes when taking pictures, and the average consumer could not afford it. Kodak hopes to use a button to fool the cumbersome camera operation and make the film popular.

Each time you press a button, you can get a photo, play a song, switch a TV channel, and reach a floor… This kind of instant feedback can bring satisfaction, borrowing the words of the netizen:

The sound of the button popping up is probably a kind of “comfortable completion”.

It is also because of the pleasure and comfort of the buttons, many electronic products will add a variety of buttons, although some buttons do not have the actual function.

For example, the “close” button in many elevators in the United States is actually fake, and the elevator door will not close faster because you press this button. This is called Placebo Buttons.

There are quite a few similar placebo buttons, such as the button on the vending machine and the “Pedestrian Pass” under the traffic lights. Although these buttons are just furnishings, they give people the same satisfaction.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s 2003 report , 90% of the central air conditioning temperature adjustment buttons installed in the office are furnishings, but the air ducts will sound when pressed, and as a result, many employees have reduced complaints about air conditioning.

Harvard University psychology professor Ellen J. Langer  believes that people’s perception of control is very important, it can reduce stress, and the button is a good carrier for users to perceive product control.

So we are tying the control products and buttons together in a subtle way. For example, the “nuclear buttons” that many movies relish have not existed, and there is a famous joke about Apple and iPhone:

Apple CEO Cook has a small button on the table that will be pressed every time a new phone is released. The iPhone will change cards for more than two years.

Although smart phones have evolved to the point where even the physical Home button has been cut, gesture interaction has gradually become mainstream, but the touch of the button interaction is still irreplaceable, but it is no longer fed back through physical buttons.

The physical button dies, but our instinct for the button is still

With the release of iPhone X in 2017, the Home button that has been with the iPhone for 10 years is becoming a thing of the past. Eliminating the physical button on the product has long been considered the mainstream trend of future mobile phones.

When the iPhone was launched in early 2007, Jobs introduced the Home button in one sentence:

It will take you back to where you are. (It takes you home from wherever you are.)

But the role of the Home button is not only for you to “go home”, but the appearance of Touch ID and 3D Touch makes the iPhone’s Home button a versatile Swiss knife.

On the iPhone 7, the Home button can’t be pressed, it can only be touched, but the original button design is still retained. This untouchable Home button is quickly borrowed by Android phones.

The problem with this is that when you see the circular button on the phone, you will still press it instinctively, but you can’t press it, and there is no sound of the button bounce, which will inevitably cause people to feel the difference.

In order to solve this problem, Apple uses the Taptic Engine’s vibration feedback to simulate real-world buttons. The Taptic Engine has different feedbacks for different actions such as pressing and lifting the Home button to maximize the realism.

The Taptic Engine was first used in the iPhone 6s. The MacBook and Apple Watch released that year also introduced a touch technology called “Force Touch”, which is also used to simulate real-world buttons, giving users the feeling of “pressing down”.

It is seemingly contradictory to replace the physical button and replace the actual feedback of the button through the vibration feedback function, but it also shows that the physical button is required by the user.

The iPhone’s vibration feedback is not only the Home button. From the top down menu, ringtones, and setting options are accompanied by the shock of the Taptic Engine. iOS 10 also opens the Taptic Engine interface to third-party apps.

A few days ago, Google’s third-party input method, Gboard, added vibration feedback, which also called the iPhone’s Taptic Engine module. The iPhone vibration feedback was originally very delicate and excellent, and it was used in the input method to bring about a long-lasting smoothness.

This “cool” feeling is derived from the “knocking feeling” of the physical keyboard. Research at the University of Massachusetts shows that if an electronic device can add vibration feedback to a virtual keyboard, the accuracy of the user’s typing will increase.

In addition to the Apple Taptic Engine, the LG V30 also introduces a tactile feedback technology called HD TouchSense that simulates the feel of a pressed shutter, while the Sony Xperia XZ2 also features a new dynamic vibration technology.

However, most users today do not regard vibration feedback as the standard for purchasing smart phones. It is not that we no longer need the “button” feeling, but the vibration feedback of most mobile phone manufacturers is not ideal.

Most products can’t customize the intensity and length of the vibration. Whether it’s pressing the virtual button or the caller reminder, it’s a unified and strong “嗡!”

Although the physical button disappears is the trend of the times, all the operations of the electronic device in the future may be completed on one screen, but the accurate simulation of the real button can really bring a better experience, which is not useful in the process of using electronic products, but It will make you more “cool” fun.

What people want is not the button, but the certainty brought by the press.

Advanced vibrations can bring more feedback, “it seems to be really doing” something.

Behind this is the sensitivity of the human body to touch. In human-computer interaction, the sense of touch brings us certainty and grasp, which is stronger than sight and hearing, and the sense of touch is highly dependent on the medium, whether it is transmitted through physics or vibration.

So what we miss is not the button, but the certainty brought by the press, just like touching the key and the peace of mind in the bag. The physicist Descartes wrote in the book “World”:

Among all our senses, touch is considered to be the most stable and least deceptive.

Nowadays, there are more and more ways of human-computer interaction. Physical buttons are not even the most important components. Even if you use gesture recognition instead of the joystick game of the button, if you don’t have all kinds of real feedback, the sense of substitution will be greatly reduced.

So even today we are used to tapping on the touch screen, but the touch of physical buttons can’t be replaced, just like some people always think that reading a physical book is more textured than using a Kindle. If one day of voice interaction and holographic interaction become the mainstream way of human-computer interaction, it may be the time when the “button” really disappears.