Cicero: A Concept for Gesture Hinting on Mobile Devices

Whereas embossed buttons, changing cursors and changing targets indicate possible interactions in desktop interfaces, the corresponding indicators for gestures and hence interactions are often missing in mobile devices. As a result, users are often unaware of less obvious interaction possibilities, and may therefore never notice certain functionalities, possibly becoming frustrated because they do not find the way to accomplish their tasks. Gesture hinting is a means to solve this problem.

Gesture hinting has previously been defined as “symbols that indicate which gesture(s) can be made in a gesture interface. These hints can be either dynamic or placid.” by S. Lundgren and M. Hjulstrom in the article Alchemy: Dynamic Gesture Hinting for Mobile Devices. Besides the importance of the in nowadays touch screen mobile devices, gesture hinting is a topic not yet deeply explored in accademic researches.

Cicero was created to explore how gesture hinting can be designed to increase the usability of an app without disturbing those who choose not to use it. It was user tested in comparison with a previously suggested concept, called Alchemy, which it clearly outranked. Cicero allows users to ask help to the OS in every situation where the user doesn't know how to interact with an item on the screen. Cicero is not obtrusive since uses a mode intentionally evoked by the user. Cicero is easy to use and quick to learn. The results from the user testing show the goodness in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. Moreover Cicero is a concept extreamely flexible and adaptable, can introduce also custom gestures and can be extended to tablet devices. Therefore Cicero is a good concept that shows a way to the gesture hinting problem's solution.

The Master Thesis Project

I'm Francesco Busolini and this concept was developed during my master thesis project done at the Interaction Design & Technlogies program at Chalmers University (Gothenburg - Sweden). A special thanks go to Sus Lundgren, my supervisor and mentor.
The complete master thesis project is available here: Cicero: A Concept for Gesture Hinting on Mobile Devices (PDF)

How it works

The Cicero approach assumes that gesture hinting starts after a triple tap; this action activates the gesture hinting mode and reveals a top bar. The user can select an item by tapping or moving the finger on it. The icons referring to the available gestures for the target item are highlighted. The top bar disappears when the user triple tap again on the screen.