Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Thomas, Geb W.

First Committee Member

Hourcade, Juan Pablo

Second Committee Member

Cook, Susan Wagner

Third Committee Member

Winet, Jon

Fourth Committee Member

Fethke, Nathan


Automatically recognizing gestures of the hand is a promising approach to communicating with computers, particularly when keyboard and mouse interactions are inconvenient, when only a brief interaction is necessary, or when a command involves a three-dimensional, spatial component. Which gestures are most convenient or preferred in various circumstances is unknown. This work explores the idea that perceived physical effort of a hand gesture influences users’ preference for using it when communicating with a computer. First, the hypothesis that people prefer gestures with less effort is tested by measuring the perceived effort and appeal of simple gestures. The results demonstrate that gestures perceived as less effortful are more likely to be accepted and preferred. The second experiment tests similar hypothesis with three-dimensional selection tasks. Participants used the tapping gesture to select among 16 targets in two environments that differ primarily in the physical distance required to finish the task. Participants, again, favor the less effortful environment over the other. Together the experiments suggest that effort is an important factor in user preference for gestures. The effort-to-reliability tradeoff existing in the majority of current gesture interfaces is then studied in experiment 3. Participants are presented 10 different levels of effort-to-reliability tradeoff and decide which tradeoff they prefer. Extreme conditions were intentionally avoided. On average they rate their preferred condition 4.23 in a 10-point scale in terms of perceived effort, and can achieve a success rate of approximately 70%. Finally, the question of whether pointing to objects enhances recall of their visuospatial position in a three-dimensional virtual environment is explored. The results show that pointing actually decreases memory relative to passively viewing. All in all, this work suggests that effort is an important factor, and there is an optimal balance for the effort-to-reliability tradeoff from a user’s perspective. The understanding and careful consideration of this point can help make future gesture interfaces more usable.


Gesture Interface, Human Computer Interaction, Information Science, User Experience, User Study


xiii, 86 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 78-86).


Copyright 2016 Xiaoxing Liu