While we are on the subject of physicality in interfaces (see my last post) I urge you to have a look at what Andy Kirk wrote about tactile maps. These maps are a great example of design as problem solving and introduce you to several affordances that are grossly underrepresented in current design.1
The indigenous people along the arctic circle have overcome many challenges of the environment they inhabit. So that they don’t get lost at sea they designed a navigation tool to guide them along coast lines. Bear in mind that it needs to be reliable in the harshest of circumstances. Functional constraints clearly drove this design process. It just works.
Visualising Data | Tactile visualisations: Inuit wood maps