Design Engineering
Showcase

Dots

Students
Xiaohui Wang, Lan Xiao & Valentin(Weilun) Gong
Course
Innovation Design Engineering
Supervisor
N/A
Theme
Humanising Technology

Dots is an inclusive interface for future spatial computing, which empowers the disabled people to design their way to interact with MR and IoT based on their body conditions.

While we are entering an exciting era with hand-gesture controlled spatial interfaces, we can foresee that since every disabled people has a unique body condition, the nature of machine learning makes it impossible to accommodate disabled people because of the shortage of individual datasets.

Dots is a two-point body gesture recognising system. Each dot contains one IMU sensor, and they can be attached to any movable body parts. After a simple calibration process, with the inertial navigation technology, the relative motion between any two body parts can be sensed, which can represent the four fundamental units in the 3D interface (selecting, moving, rotating, scaling). The user can enjoy the full control of any spatial interfaces in MR and IoT.

Background

Assistive technology and inclusive design for disabled people are well-studied areas, but, with the emerging technologies, they may face new challenges. Over the past few years, the development of immersive experiences through Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have revealed the possibility of mixed reality (MR) and screenless future, marked we are entering an era of ubiquitous computing. Furthermore, Natural User Interface (NUI) became one of the emerging interaction approaches and interfaces due to the rise of ubiquitous / pervasive technologies. Nevertheless, the accessibility for these technologies was not introduced sufficiently to people with physical disabilities. Although some approaches were introduced, the constraint of the limited body part—in our case, hands—and the methods of existing gesture recognition need to be explored further. Thus, we think inclusive design needs a new approach for people with a physical disability concerning assistive technologies within the context of ubiquitous computing. This project introduces a customisable inclusive interface for disabled people who are difficult to interact with the spatial computing environment.

 — Dots

Inclusive Design vs Customisable Design?

Since the era of the 2D interface, accessibility and inclusivity have been considered as one of the key important factors in developing user interactions/interfaces. Researchers working on inclusive HCI have attempted to open various social opportunities to disabled people by improving connectivity and interactions. To take disparate examples, Ikea’s “This Ables” project created furniture and electronics with bigger handles and bottoms so people with disability can adapt it; an interactive system uses breath as a way of input. While these approaches provide accessible interactions for people with certain disabilities, it lacks generality in terms of inclusive design, as disability is often highly individual. For instance, many inclusive design projects—including the above examples—are aiming for small groups of people, which require designers to develop different types of systems to embrace people’s diverse yet individual conditions.

We are entering the era of 3D spatial interaction that will often require people to interact within virtual environments, and people with disability would not be an exception. In this context, we thought designing/proposing a system for people with different individual disabilities is necessary to expand the idea of inclusive design. Unlike traditional inclusive design where designers/researchers/engineers need to propose a system that could embrace different types of users, we instead want different users to adapt to one flexible and customizable system. In this paper, we introduce a work-in-progress inclusive NUI system that enables people with physical disability to access 3D interactions via a customizable and wearable embodied interface.

Approach

To explore the possibility of an inclusive NUI for people who have physical disabilities, several experiments were conducted. The goal of these experiments was to extract and understand full body movement-based interactions in relation to 3D object manipulations.

Participants were asked to use their full body to perform four basic interactions — selection, positioning, rotation and scaling — for 3D object manipulation with their constricted body parts. We ran the same experiment with two target users — one quadruple amputee, one paralysed patient with limited motor ability of upper limbs. In this study, we observed and learned that most of the interactions and manipulations are possible via two points in 3D space. Below is the two-points model we built throughout this study.

 — Dots

Two-Points Model

Selection — two points quickly approaching each other.

Positioning — one point keeps still and the other moves.

Scaling — two points leave or approach each other at the same time.

Rotation — two points rotate around the pivot point.

The purpose of building this model was to help us to understand how human body movements in different conditions could express their intentions of interactions using certain body parts concerning 3D object manipulation. Understanding how people interact was necessary to design an inclusive interface or system for people with physical disabilities.

Product

Dots is a customisable body interface or system for the future of inclusive pervasive computing. Dots is composed of a wireless charger, sensors and two dot-like slices. Users—people with physical disabilities—can have full control with MR interfaces and IoT devices. The two-points model was used to develop this experiential work-in-progress prototype.

To use Dots, users need to first attach two dots onto any of their body parts depending on their body conditions. Users need to make sure the two body parts can make relative movements to accomplish at least one interaction pattern. Two dots are also possible to be attached to any object such as a table. This depends on the types of interaction users want to achieve.

The two dots respectively consist of one IMU sensor, one Bluetooth module and one battery. These two IMU sensors can measure the relative movement of two dots and then further identify the interaction patterns that users wish to make. Dots also has its calibration system to improve its accuracy to understand user behaviours.

It interacts with MR equipment and IoT devices and allows users to accomplish multiple tasks through body interactions. For example, creating 3D arts in the HoloLens, remotely controlling the smart home devices or surfing on the internet. It empowers disabled people to interact with technologies by letting them customise their demands by using their environment and body.

We have tested our project with ten participants, and they provided some qualitative feedback. Below are several points they referred to after trying our prototype.

Freedom - they enjoyed the freedom to customise the way of using their body parts.

Novelty - our design brought them a new way of thinking and working.

Equality - they felt that they are on the same page with everyone now.

The ‘customisable’ feature of Dots goes beyond the general inclusive design. It offers a variety of choices for different situations, which largely breaks the barrier of disabled people’s physical limitations. The implicit aim of this project is to explore the feasibility of the body interface within the context of NUI.

The idea of a customisable body interface was conceived by recognising the intersection between the trend of spatial computing as well as the physical limitation of hand gesture control. We wanted to make the future accessible to everyone by providing an inclusive device where users can adapt to one flexible/customisable system or interface.

Let’s make the future more inclusive, together.

 — Dots
Navigation.

Comments

Excellent! I sooooo like this idea of interaction. Inclusive, simple, easy to understand...will be willing to see the future development!

Sharon

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