The paper describes the preliminary results of a research activity on the design of consumer-product interaction by means of interactive Virtual Prototypes (iVPs). Differently from Virtual Prototypes (VPs), which can be defined as an integration of geometries and functional multi-domain and multi-physics models, interactive Virtual Prototypes can be implemented as an integration of functional models for each sense — in this case vision, touch and hearing — which are parametric and independent from each other, so that they can be modified on request. Thanks to the use of iVPs the interaction design approach can be reversed. In fact, first the iVP can be used for the design and evaluation with final users of the consumer-product interaction, and then the resulting interaction parameters can be mapped back to the functional models of the VPs by following a sort of reverse engineering activity. So, the interaction specifications are not derived by questionnaires and focus groups with potential customers, but products are shown, tested, and customised directly with the potential buyers. This method presents several advantages for companies. It allows designers to more easily and directly capture the voice of the customers by gathering an immediate feedback about new interaction modalities, and also to design and validate at the same time the emotional response of their products. Besides, these studies and validations can be performed when the product design is in its infancy and technical decisions have not been taken, with the consequent advantage that design changes are not too expensive. The paper demonstrates the validity and potentiality of the methodology through some case studies.

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