Supporting the Transfer of Learning of Freehand Gestures

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Freehand gestural interaction, that is gestures performed mid air without holding an input device or wearing markers for tracking, are increasingly being used as an interaction technique for a range of devices and applications. Unlike traditional point-and-click interfaces, gestural interfaces typically provide the user with different freehand gestures for different tasks. For example, whereas opening a music player, selecting a song and moving forward in a playlist are typically accomplished using a series of mouse clicks in a desktop environment, gestural interfaces might provide the user with different freehand gestures for open, play and move forward.Therefore one of the challenges for designers, and users, is the need to support the learning of potentially large sets of freehand gestures. However, it is unclear whether a learnt freehand gesture, designed for a particular task on a particular device or application, can be transferred by the user to perform analogous tasks on different, and potentially unknown, devices and applications.In this thesis we address this challenge answering the research question, “how can we support the transfer of learning of freehand gestures across different devices and applications”? Where transfer of learning is the application of knowledge learnt in one context to a new context, for example, performing previously learnt freehand gestures to interact with different devices and applications.Drawing on previous work we develop an understanding of how designers can support the transfer of learning of freehand gestures. In particular, two mechanisms are investigated which, if supported, can facilitate transfer of learning: learning new material to automaticity and mindful abstraction, i.e. gaining an understanding of the underlying principle, technique, strategy, etc. The literature suggests that supporting both of these mechanisms can improve both the learning and the transfer of learning of freehand gestures.Building on this understanding, a series of related studies are designed and conducted. The results of these studies inform recommendations for designers on (i) how to support both mechanisms of transfer of learning for new users of freehand gestures and (ii) the effects that supporting these mechanisms are likely to have on the transfer of learning of freehand gestures. Additionally, the results of these studies provide metrics which allow designers to predict and evaluate both the ease of learning and the ease of transfer of learning of freehand gestures.
Date of Award2 Jul 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorEamonn O'Neill (Supervisor) & Peter Johnson (Supervisor)

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