Project goals

Recent advances in user interfaces (UIs) allow users to interact with computers using only their body, socalled body-based UIs. Instead of moving a mouse or tapping a touch surface, people can use whole-body movements to navigate in games, gesture in mid-air to interact with large displays, or scratch their forearm to control a mobile phone. Body-based UIs are attractive because they free users from having to hold or touch a device and because they allow always-on, eyes-free interaction. Currently, however, research on body-based UIs proceeds in an ad hoc fashion and when body-based UIs are compared to device-based alternatives, they perform poorly. This is likely because little is known about the body as a user interface and because it is unclear whether theory and design principles from human-computer interaction (HCI) can be applied to body-based UIs. While body-based UIs may well be the next interaction paradigm for HCI, results so far are mixed.

This project aims at establishing the scientific foundation for the next generations of body-based UIs. The main novelty in my approach is to use results and methods from research on embodied cognition. Embodied cognition suggest that thinking (including reasoning, memory, and emotion) is shaped by our bodies, and conversely, that our bodies reflect thinking. We use embodied cognition to study how body-based UIs affect users, and to increase our understanding of similarities and differences to device-based input. From those studies we develop new body-based UIs, both for input (e.g., gestures in mid-air) and output (e.g., stimulating users’ muscles to move their fingers), and evaluate users’ experience of interacting through their bodies. We also show how models, evaluation criteria, and design principles in HCI need to be adapted for embodied cognition and body-based UIs. If successful, the project will show how to create body-based UIs that are usable and orders of magnitude better than current UIs.

Body-UI is funded by the European Research Council under grant agreement 648785. The project is running from 2015 to 2020.