Martorell, 13/04/2016. - ““This material feels smoother to me. The feeling is much more pleasant than the first one” states Sara. She’s participating in a blind test conducted by Raúl Funes, an engineer in the SEAT Haptics department (interaction involving touch). This group of professionals at SEAT are devoted to studying and perfecting the sensations felt by users when they touch the interior elements of a car.

The work carried out by Raúl and his team involves the ‘material world’ and sense perceptions. Although it may seem subjective and difficult to assess, in fact everything is perfectly gauged: “We put in more than three years of work before a car goes on sale”, explains Raúl. “In order to increase the objectivity of sensorial opinions, we carry out more than 150 blind tests on car parts every year. We blindfold the person performing the test so they can fully concentrate on tactile inputs. This is an example of how we analyse and scale the glide factor and consistency of certain materials”.

The purpose of all this testing is to offer a feeling of quality through the use of touch. “Whichever button people press, they all have to offer the same consistent feeling. The results of our work can be felt in the small details and overall impression given by the car”.

The field of haptics is in constant evolution due to the arrival of new technologies. The current trend is for individual buttons to be replaced by multi-function touchscreens. So Raúl’s department is focused on defining the amount of pressure that customers have to apply to the screen or on making sure that the layout of all elements is consistent with natural human movement. Another important area for haptics deals with the objects commonly used by drivers, such as a phone, umbrella or laptop. The aim is to design logical and useful storage spaces that bring spatial order to the car’s interior and ensure functionality.

Achieving the perfect surface feel that a car should provide to its customers is truly a “one-of-a-kind job”, says Raúl. So much so, that every time he explains what he does, he gets asked “do people really scrutinise every little detail on a car?”