A responsive kind of design

XXVII.4 July - August 2020
Page: 51
Digital Citation

The emerging need for touchless interaction technologies

Muhammad Iqbal, Abraham Campbell

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The Covid-19 pandemic has created a demand for technologies that allow us to avoid touching devices. Before the pandemic, the world had a difficult time understanding the importance of touchless technology, and even then, it was not imagined in this context. The gesture-based technologies that have been adopted in research have thus far not been popular outside of research labs. The global pandemic, however, has changed that view; today, the average person can certainly appreciate the need for touchless interaction. This technology is important not only for healthcare workers interacting with medical equipment, but also in the use of ATMs, vending machines, and learning devices. There are several issues in the design, development, and adoption of such technologies that should be addressed in the near future.

Touchless interaction is possible with augmented reality technology, which uses gesture and interaction controller sensors to create a bridge between virtual and real environments. Touchless interaction technology has also been explored in the following research areas: touchless technology in surgery using gesture-based technology [1], use of inertial sensors for gesture-based interaction with medical images [2], and touchless interaction in surgery using Kinect and Leap Motion devices [3]. It has been explored in education as motion-based touchless games for learning using Kinect [4], and in medical education [5] and anatomy-learning applications using Leap Motion controllers [6]. Mainly in education, these technologies were developed to allow interaction with virtual objects, but they are also viable for avoiding physical interaction with digital devices.


When taking an elevator, you should not have to worry if the buttons have recently been pressed by someone with Covid-19. Replacing this button-based interaction with a gesture or interactive hand controller could handle such cases and move the world forward. This particular case proposed using a gesture-based sensing system that receives the gesture data to help the user interact with the elevator's operating system and avoid the hand touch.

The rapid adoption of biometric systems as official identification to monitor workplace attendance, to control the security of digital devices, and now in the use of ATM machines has created a need for touchless fingerprint detection systems in these areas. Touchless ATM machines are an idea whose time has come. A touchless fingerprint payment system [7] has addressed this issue in a mobile device as touchless biometric payment.

Currently, tracking devices like Kinect, Leap Motion, and the recent development of MediaPipe by Google and Manomotion are some great resources for integrating touchless interactions in digital devices. By considering the design challenges, issues about their stability and accuracy will be addressed, which can help the world move toward the development of better touchless interfaces.

back to top  References

1. O'Hara, K. et al. Touchless interaction in surgery. Communications of the ACM 57, 1 (2014), 70–77.

2. Jalaliniya, S., Smith, J., Sousa, M., Büthe, L., and Pederson, T. Touch-less interaction with medical images using hand & foot gestures. Proc. of the 2013 ACM Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing Adjunct Publication. 2013, 1265–1274.

3. Manolova, A. System for touchless interaction with medical images in surgery using Leap Motion. ICCC 2014.

4. Bartoli, L., Corradi, C., Garzotto, F., and Valoriani, M. Exploring motion-based touchless games for autistic children's learning. Proc. of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children. 2013, 102–111.

5. Nicola, S., Stoicu-Tivadar, L., Virag, I., and Crişan-Vida, M. Leap motion supporting medical education. Proc. of 2016 12th IEEE International Symposium on Electronics and Telecommunications. IEEE, 2016, 153–156.

6. Al-Razooq, A., Boreggah, B., Al-Qahtani, L., and Jafri, R. Usability evaluation of a leap motion-based educational application. Advances in Human Factors, Business Management, Training and Education. Springer, Cham, 2017, 171–185.

7. https://patents.google.com/patent/US20180307886A1/en

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Muhammad Zahid Iqbal is a Ph.D. researcher in the School of Computer Science, University College Dublin, Ireland. His research interests are human-computer interaction, augmented reality in education, touchless interactions technologies, artificial intelligence, and e-learning. He is an alumnus of the Heidelberg Laureate Forum. Muhammad-Zahid.iqbal@ucdconnect.ie

Abraham Campbell is an assistant professor at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland, who is currently teaching as part of Beijing-Dublin International College (BJUT), a joint initiative between UCD and BJUT. abey.campbell@ucd.ie

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