All of my interests over recent years had been in constructing images. I wondered if I could produce work that had no visual content. It would be work about which the sight of it would give little clue to the character of the piece. With this abstract goal I was led to construct environments with an implied necessity for physical tactile engagement with them, to interact best with the piece. I began this experiment at Burning Man in 1997.
The installation was popular. It was encouragement to continue to refine the concept. It was an opportunity for me to work for four or five years to clarify what was an ideal structure for tactile immersion environments. The behavior of thousands of people interacting with the environments was my source of guidance.
There was an unforeseen discovery, the response of small children to the pieces. Tactile immersion environments were attractive all the way down through children’s degree of maturity, to pre-verbal children. What an astonishing development.
I received a patent on the concept of immersive tactile environments as a category of children’s toy.
It was recognized early on that such play systems have a potential to be particularly attractive to developmentally and physically disabled children. The tactile interface is equally available to children of varied muscular coordination. No formal research has been done on the subject.
Long term observation of children enjoying outdoor tactile tunnels, now stands at five years . Three siblings had the tunnels to play with for this time. Between them over the years, they represented children between three and eleven playing in the tunnels. They had not yet got tired of the tunnels when the tunnels were called to another location. This bears repeating, that there was no evidence after five years that the children were on the verge of aging out of their enjoying playing in the tunnels. The suggestion is that tactile immersion tunnels function like swing sets, enjoyable for play during all of childhood.
Tactile immersion play environments offer alternative play for children on a break from non-tactile video gaming.