A Case Study on the Rapid Development of Natural and Synergistic Multimodal Interfaces for XR Use-Cases

C. Zimmerer, M. Fischbach, and M. Latoschik. CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Extended Abstracts , New York, NY, USA, Association for Computing Machinery, (2022)


Multimodal Interfaces (MMIs) supporting the synergistic use of natural modalities like speech and gesture have been conceived as promising for spatial or 3D interactions, e.g., in Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality (XR for short). Yet, the currently prevailing user interfaces are unimodal. Commercially available software platforms like the Unity or Unreal game engines simplify the complexity of developing XR applications through appropriate tool support. They provide ready-to-use device integration, e.g., for 3D controllers or motion tracking, and according interaction techniques such as menus, (3D) point-and-click, or even simple symbolic gestures to rapidly develop unimodal interfaces. A comparable tool support is yet missing for multimodal solutions in this and similar areas. We believe that this hinders user-centered research based on rapid prototyping of MMIs, the identification and formulation of practical design guidelines, the development of killer applications highlighting the power of MMIs, and ultimately a widespread adoption of MMIs. This article investigates potential reasons for the ongoing uncommonness of MMIs. Our case study illustrates and analyzes lessons learned during the development and application of a toolchain that supports rapid development of natural and synergistic MMIs for XR use-cases. We analyze the toolchain in terms of developer usability, development time, and MMI customization. This analysis is based on the knowledge gained in years of research and academic education. Specifically, it reflects on the development of appropriate MMI tools and their application in various demo use-cases, in user-centered research, and in the lab work of a mandatory MMI course of an HCI master’s program. The derived insights highlight successful choices made as well as potential areas for improvement.

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