Haptics: Designing Multimodal Interfaces

We’ve been talking about haptics, our sense of touch, and how it ties in with technology now and in the future. But so far we’ve taken these unique senses, heat, pressure and temperature individually. But we need another aspect to consider Multimodal interfaces. Each channel of reception or feedback is a modality, whether this is visual feedback from your monitor, or pressure input from your game controller. it is important to understand that there is much interest in applying a multitude of modalities in order to enhance human computer interaction. We are told The goals of multimodal interfaces are both to create a more natural human communication in a system as well as to create a more robust system by introducing redundancy in a system. Adding a multitude of interaction methods as well as displaying information in different ways allows users to do exactly this. It is presented that any interface should be designed with the broadest range of users and contexts of use. Because we are trying to create a more natural interface it is essential that we as designers understand who might our users be, from their cultural issues, work environment, and if they might have any disabilities or other issues that might impede their ability to interact. As part of this, we also need to understand who will the system be used and in what place? The requirements for a multimodal display at a busy airport may likely be quite different than that of a personal mobile phone. Not only this, but there will be different privacy and security issues to attend to, dependent on for what the user is used for and for the user themselves. All while focusing on the end goal of maximizing human cognitive and physical abilities. It is important to have many methods to input and display information, but this does not mean a user should need to attend to all the presented information in order to comprehend what material is presented. This is because the multiple outputs are intended to help the user understand through redundancy, so that not all users will most likely use all information provided. If possible, these guidelines tell us to integrate modalities in a way that they can fit the users’ own preferences as well as the context involved, also taking into account what the system functionality intends to be. As we look at different ways to input multimodal information, it is necessary to find an appropriate output method that matches the user’s input style. As a system is created to be used by a multitude of different users, it is important to make sure that the multimodal interfaces are adaptable to the needs of the different users as well as the different contexts of use it may be used in. A mobile phone is an excellent example of this, as it is typically used by a multitude of different users around the world; any technology in a mobile phone should be accessible and easy to use by the majority. As much as we try to use multimodal interfaces to create a more natural interface, it is crucial to keep consistency. Gestures should always execute the same or similar commands throughout an interface, from program to program, across applications. Making a search by voice, typing it in, or any other method that may exist should provide identical results. Consistency aids in reducing user frustration. As a final guideline, error prevention and handling should be implemented someway in a multimodal system. However what may be done is up to the developer of such a system, but considering that users will not always interact the same way with a system, there should be a way to ensure the data entered is what the user intends to input. The previous given guidelines by L. Reeves et al. are at times vague, but that is because it is difficult to know what application or system is being designed for use with a multimodal interface. The guidelines help to keep certain aspects in mind when starting with and working with a project.

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