Blurring boundaries: Mixing input modes to enhance interactions in digital environments

Event Date: April 20, 2010
Speaker: Pourang Irani
Speaker Affiliation: University of Manitoba, Canada
Sponsor: Prospective HCC faculty candidate
Time: 3:00 PM
Location: MSEE 239
Contact Name: Prof David Ebert
Contact Phone: (765) 494-9064
Contact Email:

Input devices are an essential component of any digital environment, such as a desktop computer, a mobile device or a large digital surface. Input devices are what make interacting with and manipulating digital information possible. A key property of any input device is the mode under which it operates. For example, the mouse uses an indirect mode for input, whereas a digital pen facilitates direct input to control the virtual cursor. Researchers continue to propose techniques that allow transitioning between various input modes to harness each of their respective advantages. However most of these hybrid techniques still suffer from additional overheads and other costs associated in switching modes. In this presentation, I summarize our recent results that examine the benefits of blurring the rigid boundaries that have long existed between different input modes. With examples taken from our own results on three very different environments - large surfaces, mobile devices and the desktop computer - I demonstrate that blending input modes can result in significant performance gains in users’ daily interactions. Based on the results of our evaluations, I present guidelines for merging input modes with existing and novel devices we have invented in our lab. Finally, I will provide an overview of some of my other work with students in the Human-Computer Interaction lab on next generation interfaces for mobile devices, interactions in collaborative settings, and on alternative input methods to enhance mouse and pen-based interactions.

Pourang Irani is an Associate Professor in Computer Science at the University of Manitoba, Canada. He is the founding director of the Human-Computer Interaction lab and the Collaborative Visual Analytics lab. Over the past seven years, he has supervised numerous students with whom he has developed and patented software and hardware based solutions for improving how users interact with technology. His current research extends into the development of navigation interfaces for mobile devices, interactive tools in remote and co-located collaborative environments, and on the use of auxiliary input channels such as tilt and pressure to enhance common interactive tasks.