The emerging need for touchless interaction technologies

Authors: Muhammad Zahid Iqbal, Abraham Campbell
Posted: Wed, May 06, 2020 - 1:47:42

With the spread of Covid-19, the world of interaction technology research has completely changed: The pandemic has created a higher demand for technologies that allow us to avoid touching devices. Before the pandemic, the world had a harder time understanding the importance of touchless technology, and even then it was not imagined in this context. The gesture-based technologies and hand interaction that have been adopted in research have thus far not been popular outside of research labs. There are several issues in the design, development, and adoption of such technologies that should be addressed in the near future. 

This is a time when the average human being can understand why there is a need for touchless interaction, which was not so easy to explain in the past. This technology is not only important for healthcare workers interacting with medical equipment, but also in the use of ATMs, vending machines, and learning devices—all great examples of where we need touchless interaction. 

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], use of Kinect [3] and Leap Motion devices for touchless interaction in surgery [4]. It has also been explored in education as motion-based touchless games for learning using Kinect [5], and in medical education [6] and anatomy-learning applications using Leap Motion controllers [7]. Mainly in education, these technologies were developed to allow interaction with virtual objects, but they are also viable for avoiding hand interaction with digital devices. 

When taking an elevator, you should not have to worry if the buttons have been pressed by a Covid-19 patient. Replacing this button-based interaction with a gesture or interactive hand controller can handle such cases and move the world forward. This particular case would be addressed using a gesture-based sensing system [8] that receives the gesture data to help the user to interact with the operating system of the elevator and avoid the hand touch. 

The rapid adoption of biometric systems to monitor workplace attendance, as official identification, 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 the potential need of the time. A touchless fingerprint payment system 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 are some great resources to integrate the 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. 


1. O'Hara, K., Gonzalez, G., Sellen, A., Penney, G., Varnavas, A., Mentis, H., Criminisi, A., Corish, R., Rouncefield, M., Dastur, N., and  Carrell, T. 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. Campbell, M. Kinect imaging lets surgeons keep their focus. NewScientist. May 16, 2012; 

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

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Scoville, B.A., Simcik, P.A., and Peterson, E.C. U.S. Patent No. 10,023,427. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Washington, DC, 2018.

Posted in: Covid-19 on Wed, May 06, 2020 - 1:47:42

Muhammad Zahid Iqbal

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 alumni of the Heidelberg Laureate Forum. [email protected]
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Abraham Campbell

Abraham G. 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[email protected]
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