Tom Cruise using the interface from the movie "Minority Report"

Gestural interfaces

Gestural interfaces have great potential, but there are serious considerations as well. 

As all great stories start: we were at a bar. It was a HFES (Human Factors and Ergonomic Society) happy hour.

We were talking about gestural interfaces, and upon someone’s mention of “Minority Report”, a women I was speaking to said:

“I am so sick of hearing about Minority Report!”

“Minority Report” is the first thing that comes to mind when people think about gestural interfaces. It’s not surprising why. When Tom Cruise moves his arm around: it’s like magic. Things move and warp and twist and display and hide and do everything Tom Cruise wants at the flick of a wrist. Well, more like the wave of an arm.

The arm waving is where the magic hits a wall.

Waving your arms around in the air is a blast for a minute, but those large gestures are exhausting. They’re also very public. Can you picture a floor of an office, but with every employee waving their arms around?

What’s the solution?

Imagine twitching your hand, and the news article you’re reading scrolls down. This small movement is almost effortless, and you’re able to continue drinking a morning coffee (or whatever you like to do while catching up on the news!).

The problem is that it is difficult to tell if you made that twitch intentionally, or involuntarily. A larger gesture would be more clear, but also more tiring. The right amount of movement is hard to determine, and it changes based on the person’s range of mobility, strength, and ability to remember a variety of different gesture combinations.

What if we think even smaller… what if you could control your computer with just your eyes?

Eyefluence (a start-up that has now been purchased by Google) has an interesting demo, where they demonstrate using only your eyes to navigate an entire GUI. Its a very cool concept that will likely have huge implications in the VR space.

This control would be interesting in the physical space as well. Imagine a security guard who, when a panel captures his interest, can just look at it in order to maximize the view? Just giving attention to an item would allow them to see more detail with no movement beyond their eye focus.

Man monitoring security system


References & further reading

An enjoyable read about the Minority Report UI

Podcast discussing Eyefluence

Jakob Nielson on Movie UI

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