Gesture Based Interfaces

Woman sliding finger across tablet in a gesture based interface according to ISO/IEC 30113-1.

Globalization has been paired with constant technological innovation, spreading information and communications technology (ICT) devices throughout the world to all different kinds of people. One point of interaction between an individual and an electronic device is a gesture. Gestures are used for performing a variety of commands as an alternative input method. ISO/IEC 30113-1:2015: Information technology – User interface – Gesture-based interfaces across devices and methods – Part 1: Framework provides guidelines to standardize the use of gestures across many commands in different devices.

In a human-machine interaction, a user uses hardware as an input device, which recognizes a gesture and sends it to the ICT system, finding a predefined command to generate feedback to the user. There are a limited number of basic gestures, so the same gesture is often used for a variety of different commands in different situations. Many people have multiple devices that use gestures, including mice, touch screens, touch pads, 3D mice, joysticks, game controllers, wired gloves, depth-aware cameras, stereo cameras, and Web cameras. Because of all the different devices that one person can have, he or she can easily confuse gestures that are common for one system for another. ISO/IEC 30113-1:2015 addresses this by giving recommendations for gesture methods that can promote interoperability among different systems, making different commands similar to one another.

An incredibly important consideration with the standardization of gestures is that of cultural differentiation. These interfaces are not intended for just one particular culture, but are more universal. However, they do involve two-dimensional or three-dimensional movements in space, which can be performed differently depending on the user’s culture. From specific cultural ideas, gesture-based interface designers must be cautious when including any gesture that they feel is widespread and not just unique to their culture. An example for this the standard gives is that Bulgarians nod to say “no” and shake their head to say “yes”, while Americans nod to say “yes” and shake their head to say “no”. So if an American company would design a gesture for a computer or gaming system webcam that required the user to shake his or her head to confirm an activity, the system would likely operative perfectly with an American audience, but not so well with a Bulgarian audience. Cultural adaptability is a necessity with gesture based-interfaces so that they do not exclude any people just because of their background.

Designers should also be sensitive to the lack of accessibility from physical constraints. Some gestures can be too complex for users with disabilities or the elderly to complete. Consideration of all users is essential when defining gestures for an ICT system. The guidelines presented in ISO/IEC 30113-1:2015 allow for successful operation of any gesture interface by any individual.

ISO/IEC 30113-1:2015 is part of ISO/IEC 30113. This is established by ISO/IEC JTC 1, the joint technical committee of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Some other ICT user interface standards by JTC 1 include:

ISO/IEC 24752-2:2014 (2019): Information technology – User interfaces – Universal remote console – Part 2: User interface socket description
ISO/IEC 23007-2:2012: Information technology – Rich media user interfaces – Part 2: Advanced user interaction (AUI) interfaces
ISO/IEC 18021:2002: Information technology – User interfaces for mobile tools for management of database communications in a client-server model

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