Research Projects pre-2013

Grant Funded Research Projects in the Multimodal Interaction Group 

This page contains a short description and the case for support documents for our funded research projects. Clicking on the title of the project will give you the case
for support.


  1. Principles for improving interaction in telephone-based
  2. Guidelines for the Use of Sound in Multimedia Human-Computer
  3. MultiVis I: A Multimodal Visualisation System for Blind
    Students Using Virtual Reality
  4. 3D Audio Windows: Enhancing PC Accessibility for Visually
    Disabled Users
  5. A multimodal visualisation system for blind people using
    virtual reality
  6. AudioClouds: Three-Dimensional Auditory and Gestural
    Interfaces for Mobile and Wearable Computers
  7. UTOPIA: Usable Technologies for Older People: Inclusive
    and Appropriate
  8. An investigation of multimodal interaction with tactile
  9. MultiVis II: Multimodal Tools to Allow Blind People to Create and Manipulate Visualisations
  10. MICOLE: Multimodal collaboration environment for inclusion
    of visually impaired children
  11. Multimodal, Negotiated Interaction in Mobile Scenarios
  12. GAIME: Gestural and Audio Interactions for Mobile Environments


1. Principles for Improving Interaction
in Telephone-Based Interfaces

Telephone-based interfaces (TBIs) are an increasingly important method
of interacting with computer systems (such as electronic banking or voice
mail). Telephones themselves are also incorporating greater functionality
(such as address books and call forwarding). In both cases this extra
functionality may be rendered useless if usability is not considered.
One common usability problem is users getting lost when navigating through
hierarchies of options or functions. This may mean some functions are
not used or that users cannot achieve the goals they wish.

The innovative aspect of this proposal is to use structured non-speech
sounds (such as short pieces of music) to enhance the output of information
in TBIs. Sound can present information rapidly without getting in the
way of any speech output. I will investigate the use of sound to provide
navigation cues to stop users getting lost and also to provide richer
output methods to create more flexible interaction techniques. To ensure
effectiveness I will perform a full usability evaluation. TBI designers
will benefit from this research because guidelines produced will enable
them to create more powerful interfaces. End-users will benefit because
the resulting telephones and telephone services will be more usable.

Project web pages


2. Guidelines for the Use of Sound in Multimedia
Human-Computer Interfaces

Sonically-enhanced graphical human-computer interfaces allow more natural
communication between computer and user. Such multimedia interfaces allow
users to employ two senses to solve a problem, rather than using vision
to solve all problems. This leads to reductions in the time taken to
complete tasks. However, this area is in its infancy and there is little
systematic research to demonstrate the best ways of combining graphics
and sound. This means sounds are often added in ad hoc and ineffective
ways by designers.

The innovative aspect of this proposal is to produce a set of guidelines,
and a toolkit based on it, to simplify the use of sounds so that designers
can improve the usability of their multimedia interfaces. We will investigate
the most effective places to use sound by experimental evaluation. From
these experiments guidelines will be produced. A toolkit will be built,
based on the guidelines, that designers can use to create effective sonically-enhanced
interfaces. We will also investigate new interaction techniques that become
possible by the combination of graphics and sound. Interface developers
will benefit from this work because they will be able to produce more
usable interfaces. End-users will benefit because the resulting interfaces
will be more usable.

Project website


3. Multivis I: A Multimodal
Visualisation System for Blind Students Using Virtual Reality

One of the main deprivations caused by blindness is the problem of access
to information. Visualisation is an increasingly important method for
people to understand complex information (using tables, graphs and 3D
plots, etc.) and also to navigate around structured information. Computer-based
visualisation techniques, however, depend almost entirely on high-resolution
graphics and for visually-impaired users the problems of using complex
visual displays are great. There are currently only limited methods for
presenting information non-visually and these do not provide an equivalent
speed and ease of use to their graphical counterparts. This means it is
impossible for blind people to use visualisation techniques, so depriving
them further. We will investigate and solve this problem by using techniques
from Virtual Reality (VR) that will allow users to feel and hear their

The innovative aspect of this proposal is to investigate the different
sensory modalities to see how they can best be used for visualisation
and so create a powerful, multimodal visualisation system that makes the
most of the senses our users have. We will be using force-feedback, 3D
sound, braille, speech input and output to try and overcome the problems
caused by the lack of vision. The research that will be done during the
project will have a major impact because it will open up the possibilities
for using these new techniques and greatly improve the quality of life
of our users. The main aims of this research are to: � Investigate the
cognitive and perceptual properties of the different sensory modalities
and the problems blind people face when trying to visualise information;
� Develop new visualisation techniques using VR and multimodality to allow
blind people to use complex information; � Investigate how these new techniques
can be incorporated into future visualisation systems.

MultiVis web pages


3D Audio Windows: Enhancing PC Accessibility for Visually Disabled Users

An important challenge that presents itself to modern software vendors
catering for diverse populations is: will the integration of telecommunications,
the Web and PC technology present access problems for disabled populations?
And, furthermore, how can this technology be structured to present new
opportunities for individuals with disabilities to be integrated into
the mainstream?

For the visually disabled user, network-based PCs offer the possibility
of much greater access to electronic and human resources; however, existing
interface architectures do not support efficient interactions with this
material. Audio rendering tools such as text-to-speech translators —
currently the fastest and most natural facility for making text/graphical
information perceivable — typically collapse information from a variety
of concurrently operating windows into a single serial stream of sound.
This information bottleneck must be overcome in order for visually disabled
users to enjoy the efficiency of the full multi-tasking interface available
to sighted users.

The work which we propose to undertake for Microsoft exploits 3D spatial
audio to increase interface bandwidth. This solution employs rapidly developing
3D audio technology to expand and repartition a single audio stream into
multiple spatially segregation streams of information — i.e., acoustic
— which, like visual windows, each present information from
a unique spatial position. In the same way that sighted users employ the
position of a visual window to disambiguate its contents from that of
other windows, so can the position of a sound source be exploited to disambiguate
its contents from other temporally overlapping audio streams in a 3D audio
display. In addition to display, this solution provides natural window
manipulation facilities which include monitoring users listening behaviour
(via head tracking facilities) so as to allow them to select and organize
information directly without translating their preferences into less flexible
(e.g., screen or mouse-pad) coordinates.


5. A Multimodal Visualisation System for Blind People
Using Virtual Reality (ONCE)

This project will run in conjunction with the MultiVis EPSRC project
(number 3 above). It is being funded by ONCE
Organizaci�n Nacional de Ciegos Espa�oles. This is the national organisation
for blind people in Spain.

See the project
Web pages.


6. Audioclouds: Three-Dimensional
Auditory and Gestural Interfaces for Mobile and Wearable Computers

Mobile computing devices are extremely popular. Mobile telephones, Personal
Digital Assistants and handheld computers are currently one of the fastest
growth areas of computing and this growth will extend into more sophisticated,
fully wearable computers in the near future. One problem with these devices
is their limited input and output capabilities. Limited screen space for
information display means small screens can easily become cluttered with
information. Input is also limited, with small keyboards or handwriting
recognition the norm. These are slow and hard to use when mobile. Current
interaction techniques therefore limit mobile devices because walking
or running, driving or navigating all require a large amount of visual
attention and adding to this with a complex graphical display can cause

The innovative aspect of this proposal is to explore a new paradigm for
interacting with mobile computers, based on novel techniques using 3D
sound and gestures, to create interfaces that are powerful, usable and
natural. The gesture modelling itself will be an innovative combination
of dynamic systems models and nonparametric statistical models. We will
develop a wearable computer that uses 3D sound for output and head, hand
and device gestures for input. This will allow us to investigate new presentation
methods and interaction techniques to allow richer and more complex, tightly
coupled interactions with mobile devices and mobile services, opening
up the possibilities for using mobiles in a range of new and more powerful

Audioclouds web pages


7. UTOPIA: Usable Technologies for Older People: Inclusive
and Appropriate (SHEFC)

UTOPIA is a Scottish research project investigating the design
and development of computer-based technology for older people. It is
formed from a partnership of research groups at four universities (Dundee,
Glasgow, Abertay and Napier)

The proportion of older people in the population is increasing and with
it the demands on long-term care and help for their particular needs.
Although many older people are independent and provide much to the community,
as we grow older, we will, in general, experience a reduction in our abilities
and usually require support in some activities, eventually even the basic
activities of life.

Adopting a different viewpoint, we find that older people, especially
those just past retirement age, are often economically active and, despite
commonly-held stereotypes, not particularly averse to new technology.

This project aims to bring together these needs and possibilities by
investigating the development of computer-based technology for older people.
By bringing together researchers in different areas we hope to develop
design methodologies that include the needs and wants of older people,
as well as raising awareness of these issues among the research and IT
communities. In addition, we hope to design and develop some technological
products specifically for older people.



8. An investigation of multimodal
interaction with tactile displays

The area of haptic (touch-based) HCI has grown rapidly over the last
few years. A range of new applications has become possible now that touch
can be used as an interaction technique. However, most current haptic
devices have scant provision for tactile stimulation, being primarily
kinaesthetic devices. The cutaneous (skin-based) component is ignored
even though it is a key part of our experience of touch. Devices are now
becoming available that allow tactile display but little research has
gone into how they might actually be used at the user interface. The innovative
aspect of this research is to open up a new area of study into the cutaneous
aspects of HCI and to investigate a range of tactile displays to improve
the whole experience of computer haptics. The research has two strands.
The first is an investigation of tactile cue design, the combination of
tactile and kinaesthetic displays and combined tactile auditory multimodal
displays. The second strand is the application of this knowledge of tactile
interface design to the key application domains of accessibility to visualisations
for blind users and mobile/wearable computer interfaces. In both of these
areas interaction limitations mean that tactile displays can make a major
contribution to usability.

Project webpages


9. MultiVis II: Multimodal
Tools to Allow Blind People to Create and Manipulate Visualisations

Understanding and manipulating information using visualisations
such as graphs, tables and 3D plots is very common for sighted people.
The skills needed are learned early in school and then used throughout
life, for example, in analysing information, creating presentations
to show it to others, or just managing home finances. These basic skills
are needed for all parts of education and employment. Blind people
have very restricted access to information presented in these visual
ways. The innovative aspect of MultiVis II is to use multimodal techniques
to allow blind users themselves to create and manipulate visualisations
interactively using haptic and audio tools, adding and removing points
and interacting with the visualisation as they go. We will develop
new ways to overcome the confusion and navigation problems often experienced
by allowing two-handed interaction and augmenting existing paper-based
technologies with haptics and audio to maximise their usefulness. We
will also investigate 3D sound to provide external memory (a fundamental
problem for blind people) to mark interesting points, or to easily
return to items to facilitate comparisons with other data points. Finally,
we will look at the collaborative use of visualisations by blind people
to allow users to work together on their data.

This project carries on the work started in the MultiVis I project above.

MultiVis web pages



Multimodal collaboration environment for inclusion of visually impaired children
(EU Framework 6)

The work in the MICOLE project aims at developing a system that supports
collaboration, data exploration, communication and creativity of visually
impaired and sighted children. In addition to the immediate value as
a tool the system will have societal implications through improved inclusion
of the visually disabled in education, work, and society in general.
While the main activity is the construction of the system, several other
supporting activities are needed, especially empirical research of collaborative
and cross-modal haptic interfaces for visually impaired children.


11. Multimodal, Negotiated Interaction in Mobile Scenarios

We propose the investigation and evaluation of an alternative
approach to the integration of physical and digital
resources which we call negotiated interaction (NI).
This framework draws on dynamic systems theory, probabilistic
reasoning and multimodal feedback. We believe
this ambitious project has wide-ranging implications for

HCI in general, creating a new paradigm for analysis and
design of interaction, and is especially important for the
growing area of mobile computing.

Negotiated Interaction Web pages


12. GAIME: Gestural and Audio Interactions for Mobile Environments

Most PDAs and smart phones have sophisticated graphical interfaces and commonly use small keyboards or styli for input. The range of applications and services for such devices is growing all the time. However, there are problems which make interaction difficult when a user is on the move. Much visual attention is needed to operate many of the applications, which may not be available in mobile contexts. Oulasvirta et al. showed that attention can become very fragmented for users on the move as it must shift between navigating the environment and the device, making interaction hard. Our own research has shown that performance may drop by more than 20% when users are mobile. Another important issue is that most devices require hands to operate many of the applications. These may not be available if the user is carrying bags, holding on to children or operating machinery, for example. Therefore, the novel aspect of this proposal is to reduce the reliance on graphical displays and hands by investigating gesture input from other locations on the body combined with three-dimensional sound for output.

GAIME Web pages