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Microsoft Researches Universal Gestures

Microsoft researchers are presenting a paper this week on universal hand gestures in computing at CHI 2009. Apparently they did a study where they asked test subjects what gesture they would use to indicate a specific computer operation, like "I need help" ( Most people drew a question mark on the screen). Actually, according to the article, many of the gestures were in-the-air signals with hands and fingers.

I think this is important research because there are few established universal gestures (e.g. touch, pinch, swipe) and we are surely going to see many different kinds of gestures (some good, and more bad) used by multitouch device manufactures.

One tidbit from the article I enjoyed reading, because its speaks to a pet peeve of mine, is that people generally don't distinguish between one, two, or multiple fingers in manipulations. So for example, designing gestures around a one finger swipe as different from a three fingers swipe (you can thank Apple for that gem) is a bad idea.

That said there are some in the air gestures that have significance depending on the number of fingers, but these are not at all universal as they have strong cultural bindings. For example, the "thumbs up" means "everything is well" in America but it also means "Frak You" in South America, West Africa and parts of Europe.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Richard Monson-Haefel

Richard Monson-Haefel, an award-winning author and technical analyst, owns Richard Monson-Haefel Consulting. Formerly he was VP of Developer Relations at Curl Inc. and before that a Senior Analyst at The Burton Group. He was the lead architect of OpenEJB, an open source EJB container used in Apache Geronimo, a member of the JCP Executive Committee, member of JCP EJB expert groups, and an industry analyst for Burton Group researching enterprise computing, open source, and Rich Internet Application (RIA) development.

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