Corrales-Based Ideum Tests Touchless Interface Concept

By Jim Spadaccini, Ideum


April 13, 2020 – As museums and public spaces start to reopen later this year, some visitors and staff will be wary of interacting with touch screens and other hands-on exhibits. We’ve seen this before during the 2009 H1N1 Swine Flu outbreak, although that pandemic was not as impactful as COVID-19, and touch screens were not nearly as common at that time as they are now.

This likely means that touchless gesture interfaces and even voice recognition will find traction in public environments as venues begin to open up again. While we don’t believe this situation will be permanent, the current crisis provides opportunities to move touchless technology and design approaches forward as we continue to develop new types of interactions.

Ideum’s history with gesture and voice recognition goes back more than five years. Most notably, we worked with Intel on a proof-of-concept interface that employed the premiere version of the RealSense motion recognition system and SDK. For this project, we used the RealSense SR300, a short-range recognition system.

While this application was developed for the desktop, we learned a great deal about interface design for motion-based applications in general. For example, providing immediate and active feedback to users, and letting them know how to interact and when their interactions are recognized, are essential in these types of applications. Also, visual helpers for specific gestures are important, as most gestures are not necessarily intuitive. (We’ve seen this with multitouch screen-based interfaces, where most visitors know how to pinch and zoom, but more elaborate gestures require specific instructions.)

As a desktop application, we had the added advantage of being able to expect that some users would learn some gestures in a short period of time, making more elaborate and nuanced interactions possible. In public spaces like museums, which often present a wide range of opportunities and stimuli, designers need to be careful to avoid overloading visitors with too many instructions and ways to interact. As we know from the basics of interface design, visitors can also become frustrated when elements don’t work as expected. That’s why keeping the set of possible input gestures simple is key; rather than creating a large library of possible gestures, it’s often most effective to focus on a small set of common or easy-to-remember movements.