Touch as interaction medium

This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating.

Push to cross

In London, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and elsewhere the ‘swipe’ or ‘tap’ is already a common interaction for paying and entering in a wide variety of public situations. In the near future the mobile phone and RFID card may be used extensively for ticketing and payment across the globe.

If we are using our mobile phones to interact with the physical world via NFC, what kinds of new interaction methods emerge on our mobile devices?

At the moment NFC phones may give us tactile and audio feedback when we touch an NFC tag. We are then forced to look at the screen to confirm NFC actions. But one of the largest usability opportunities for NFC is reducing our reliance on screen-based interfaces. Are there are more subtle and intuitive ways of giving feedback on actions without having to look at the screen?

On the input side we need to work out what kinds of interaction methods work between the mobile phone and the physical world. Are we dealing with touching, tapping, swiping, pointing, hitting, bouncing, squeezing? Does RFID-based interaction work with gestures? Do we need dedicated buttons that enable and work alongside RFID interactions?

Within the interaction, we need to consider whether there are more advanced forms of interactions such as drag and drop, hold, hover, and different states beyond the simple hyperlink. In what contexts might these interactions be used? In what ways might these interactions affect people’s behaviour and activities in public places? What kinds of activities and interactions are suitable in public space?

On the feedback side, sound, music, vibration, light and tactile feedback can all be used to create efficient, usable and satisfying interactions. Think about the richness of feedback for many senses from a game system like the Nintendo Wii, there is no reason why mobile interactions should be any less rich.

In this project it would be good to prototype a range of interaction methods, with a range of inputs and outputs, and to test them out on a cross-section of potential users. The project might consider looking at research into tangible and haptic computing, and the human sense of proximity and peripersonal space, particularly if we are to work out how to create interactions between people.

This brief may also consider some of the instructional and iconography issues around these interactions.


Mäkelä, K., Belt, S., Greenblatt, D., and Häkkilä, J. 2007. Mobile interaction with visual and RFID tags: a field study on user perceptions. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (San Jose, California, USA, April 28 - May 03, 2007). CHI ‘07. ACM Press, New York, NY, 991-994. Link

Rukzio, E. Leichtenstern, K., Callaghan, V., Holleis, P., Schmidt, A., Chin, J. An Experimental Comparison of Physical Mobile Interaction Techniques: Touching, Pointing and Scanning. In Proc. Ubicomp 2006, 87-104. PDF

Rukzio, E., Paolucci, M., Finin, T., Wisner, P., and Payne, T. 2006. Mobile interaction with the real world. In Proceedings of the 8th Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Helsinki, Finland, September 12 - 15, 2006). MobileHCI ‘06, vol. 159. ACM Press, New York, NY, 295-296. PDF

Välkkynen, P., Niemelä, M., and Tuomisto, T. 2006. Evaluating touching and pointing with a mobile terminal for physical browsing. In Proceedings of the 4th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer interaction: Changing Roles (Oslo, Norway, October 14 - 18, 2006). A. Mørch, K. Morgan, T. Bratteteig, G. Ghosh, and D. Svanaes, Eds. NordiCHI ‘06, vol. 189. ACM Press, New York, NY, 28-37. Link

Swindells, C., Inkpen, K. M., Dill, J. C., and Tory, M. 2002. That one there! Pointing to establish device identity. In Proceedings of the 15th Annual ACM Symposium on User interface Software and Technology (Paris, France, October 27 - 30, 2002). UIST ‘02. ACM Press, New York, NY, 151-160. Link

Ljungstrand, P. and Holmquist, L. E. 1999. WebStickers: using physical objects as WWW bookmarks. In CHI ‘99 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, May 15 - 20, 1999). CHI ‘99. ACM Press, New York, NY, 332-333. Link

Read more about these design briefs.

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  1. By NFC access control · Touch on 4 May 2007 at 15:02

    [...] other briefs, in particular looking at how icon or graphic treatments might work and the kinds of interaction methods that are evolving for NFC [...]

  2. By Touch design briefs · Touch on 4 May 2007 at 15:05

    [...] Touch as an interaction medium [...]

  3. [...] kinds of new interaction methods emerge on our mobile devices? asks the Touch [...]

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