Journal of Software Engineering and Applications, 2011, 4, 513-521
doi:10.4236/jsea.2011.49059 Published Online September 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSEA
A Gesture Controlled User Interface for Inclusive
Design and Evaluative Study of Its Usability
Moniruzzaman Bhuiyan1, Rich Picking2
1Institute of Information technology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh; 2Centre for Applied Internet Research, Glyndwr Uni-
versity, Wrexham, United Kingdom.
Received August 15th, 2011; revised September 6th, 2011; accepted September 13th, 2011.
To meet the challenges of ubiquitous computing, ambient technologies and an increasingly older population, research-
ers have been trying to break away from traditional modes of interaction. A history of studies over the past 30 years
reported in this paper suggests that Gesture Controlled User Interfaces (GCUI) now provide realistic and affordable
opportunities, which may be appropriate for older and disabled people. We have developed a GCUI prototype applica-
tion, called Open Gesture, to help users carry out everyday activities such as making phone calls, controlling their tele-
vision and performing mathematical calculations. Open Gesture uses simple hand gestures to perform a diverse range
of tasks via a television interface. This pap er describes Open Gesture and reports its usability eva luation. We conclude
that this inclusive technology offers some potential to improve the independence and quality of life of older and dis-
abled users along with general users, although there remain significant ch allenges to be overcome.
Keywords: Ges t ure Co nt r ol, User Interfa ce , Inclusive Design, Augmented Reality, Television
1. Introduction
The evolution of diverse technologies has in turn led to
diverse styles of interaction. For example, most people
use a keyboard and pointing device (e.g. a mouse) when
they interact with a computer, even though this is not the
optimal solution for all types of users [1]. Most people
also use a remote keypad to control their televisions; they
use a push-button interface evolved from an ‘old- fash-
ioned’ telephone to interact with their mobile phones,
and a proprietary handset evolved from a joystick to play
computer games. More novel interaction is increasing in
popularity, especially touch-screen technology (e.g. Ap-
ple I-touch/phone/pad) and motion-sensing technology,
as in the case of the Nintendo Wii [2]. Both these styles
of interaction have proved popular with users who are
uncomfortable with more common devices, and this in-
cludes older users with certain disabilities. People with
language barrier (e.g. non-English speaking users) also
struggle to use interfaces when many interfaces are in
English [3].
It is well-documented that the increasing older popula-
tion is becoming one of the major challenges for devel-
oped countries [4]. The population will continue to grow
older in the future, whilst lower birth rates will result in
fewer younger people to care for the elderly [5]. It is
widely accepted that we need to address this issue
through a range of initiatives, including researching the
potential for technology to extend independent living.
Such initiatives may also support younger people, in-
cluding those with disabilities.
Most computer-based assistive technology products
have been developed for relatively small groups of users,
and have consequently been rather expensive and spe-
cialized for specific user groups. In the future, the num-
ber of people who may benefit from assistive technolo-
gies will inevitably increase. Assistive and ambient tech-
nologies are already supporting independent living [6].
Higher demand will reduce prices as those of us who
become elderly feel more comfortable with computer
technologies. These phenomena are already evident, for
example it has been reported that users aged 80 and
above in residential care homes have reacted very posi-
tively to the Nintendo Wii [7], a gesture controlled gam-
ing console. A gesture is a non-verbal, natural commu-
nication made with a part of the body. It has been dem-
onstrated that young children can readily learn to com-
municate with gesture before they learn to talk [8].
However, as our faculties fail, we need to design and
A Gesture Controlled User Interface for Inclusive Design and Evaluative Study of Its Usability
develop consistent and familiar interfaces and applica-
tions, to reduce confusion and exclusion as much as pos-
sible [9].
In the early stages of the present work, we conducted a
survey [10] of research and development of exemplar
GCUI technology which covers the past thirty years or so.
The trends suggest that we are now in a position to sup-
port gesture technology using affordable technologies
which are familiar and intuitive for many users, and
which can be converged with everyday household objects,
such as the television. The findings of the study moti-
vated the development of Open Gesture, an augmented
reality application, which superimposes a mirror image
of the user onto the television screen. Open Gesture uses
low cost hardware (typically a web cam) and open source
software technology, and can be incorporated into pro-
grammable digital television equipment. The aim of this
application is to provide Gesture Controlled User Inter-
faces for inclusive design, enabling interaction to be
more usable for older and disabled people.
2. GCUI Research Survey and Analysis
The aforementioned historical survey of GCUI technolo-
gies undertaken by the authors [10], which is by no
means an exhaustive review; rather it maps out a chro-
nology of exemplar research projects and commercial
products in the domain. It summarizes the projects and
classifies them according to the user populations, gesture
types, technologies, interfaces, research/evaluation me-
thods, and issues addressed. The user populations are
categorized as any (when disabled and elderly are men-
tioned), disabled, elderly, and general (when disabled or
elderly are not mentioned). Gesture types are hand, head,
finger, body or any. The technologies briefly summarize
the tools or technology used in the system. The interfaces
field provides the information where gesture commands
take place and it may also describe the feedback given to
the user following a gesture input. The task(s) and meth-
odologies required to find the result have also been in-
cluded. The research issues addressed and study out-
comes are also listed in the case of research projects.
Twenty six exemplar research projects and eleven
commercial projects have been selected after studying
over 180 published research papers and projects. The
research shows clear signs that gesture controlled tech-
nologies are now becoming feasible in terms of their af-
fordability, usability, and convergence with established
and familiar technologies. Though there are different
aspects and many points to mention from the research
studied, the following themes were extrapolated to sum-
marize the evolution of GCUI development: 1) gesture
type; 2) users; 3) application area; 4) technology; and 5)
research methodology. These themes will now be briefly
discussed, with a view to justifying the design choices
made for the Open Gesture application.
2.1. Gesture Type
Most research projects have focused on hand gestures.
There are also examples of body gesture, head gesture
and finger pointing gesture. In earlier research, technol-
ogy was expensive and obstructive, for example gloves
with microcontrollers connected with the device through
a wire were used. Overwhelmingly, hand gestures have
been the most dominant gesture type, and given that such
interaction is now readily available, affordable and wire-
less (e.g. using Bluetooth technologies), we chose this
gesture type for the Open Gesture project. There are dis-
advantages of hand gestures, for example direct control
via hand posture is immediate, but limited in the number
of choices [11]. However, this observation was not a
problem for us, as we had already chosen to limit the
choices for users at any given time to simplify the inter-
action as much as possible.
2.2. Users
Most of the research reported in our survey considered
users of any age. Early projects tended to consider com-
puter users interacting with typical applications (e.g. file
handling, image interaction or computer-based presenta-
tions). Disabled (e.g. wheelchair) users have also been
highly considered for accelerometer-based gesture con-
trolled systems. Most current investigations are focused
on older and disabled people, as researchers begin to see
the value that GCUIs may provide. Consequently, it ap-
pears very timely to focus on such user groups now.
2.3. Application Area
The research shows that gesture-based applications can
be used for many different things: entertainment; con-
trolling home appliance; tele-care; tele-health; elderly or
disabled care, to name a few. The increasing scope of the
application areas suggests the importance of undertaking
more work in GCUI research. Earlier applications were
developed to replace traditional input devices (e.g. the
keyboard and mouse) in order to improve accessibility.
For example, some used gesture for text editing [12,13]
and for presentations [14]. Gesture visualization has also
been developed for training applications [15]. Recently,
digital cameras have provided new dimensions to de-
velop gesture-based user interface development. Now
people can interact with a range of media using gesture
to control a wide range of applications. The prevalence
of gesture-based commercial products has increased
since 2003, as the technology has improved and become
commercially viable.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSEA
A Gesture Controlled User Interface for Inclusive Design and Evaluative Study of Its Usability 515
2.4. Technology
The ways of recognizing gestures have progressed sig-
nificantly over time. Image processing technology has
played an important role here. In the past, gestures have
been captured by using infrared beams, data gloves, still
cameras, wired and many inter-connected technologies,
for example using gloves, pendants, infrared signals and
so forth. Recent computer vision techniques have made it
possible to capture intuitive gestures for ubiquitous de-
vices from the natural environment with visualization,
without the need for intrusive tools [16]. The games in-
dustry is the main target of these products [2,16,17] al-
though other sectors such as healthcare, training, hand-
held applications and industrial 3D simulations are also
becoming feasible [18]. It appears that GCUI technology
is now becoming much more acceptable in terms of us-
ability and affordability.
2.5. Research Methodology
Typically, a combination of qualitative and quantitative
methods has been used in GCUI research. Post-study
semi-structured interviews have been popular [12,19-21].
These studies asked users for aggregate reports about
their own decision-making processes. Kallio et al. [15]
and Kela et al. [22] also used such semi-structured in-
terviews, as well as the analysis of users’ instant reac-
tions to the interface prototypes. These approaches are
very suitable for investigating users’ reactions to new
Such types of qualitative methods enable researchers
to focus on relevant aspects of the issue and to begin
formulating relevant hypotheses. However, the qualita-
tive approach is limited by the users’ ability to analyze
their own decision-making processes [23], in particular
with regard to a complex phenomenon such as gesture.
A number of the surveyed research studies also used
quantitative methods. In the majority of studies an expe-
riential survey [20,24-26] approach was employed,
where participants were asked to perform specific ges-
tures and several predefined tasks. Subsequently, their
impressions were recorded by filling out a questionnaire.
Kela et al. [22] applied a basic survey approach, fol-
lowed by experimental methods.
In this research, both qualitative and quantitative
methods have been used. Previous research demonstrates
that the initial activities of gesture controlled interfaces
are largely based on qualitative methods since this ap-
proach is essential when beginning to investigate a new
issue or when exploring long-term effects. For this re-
search, quantitative approaches have been followed in
the pilot study as well as in the detailed usability evalua-
tion. In this way the research can make use of the advan-
tages and disadvantages of each methodology, making
the potential to gather more information greater than
when using a single method.
As this research is in the domains of Human-Computer
Interaction (HCI) and inclusivity, many issues is required
to be addressed; not only issues of the design itself but
also questions surrounding the design process, such as
ethics and communication with the users. Experts in the
field of HCI for older adults are agreed that ethical issues
should be considered in the design process [27] and [28].
We have been aware of the importance of focusing on
users’ needs, wants, and capabilities. User-centred design
(UCD) is a set of techniques and processes that enable
developers to focus on the users within the design proc-
ess [29]. This is a popular approach to this challenge also
recommended by the British Standard (ISO 1999). This
research demands strong involvement of the users espe-
cially during the analysis and evaluation stage. Due to
“the cultural and experimental gap” between the designer
and older and disabled users, this involvement is particu-
larly important [30].
2.6. Analysis of the Survey
The number of research and commercial projects has
shown clear signs that gesture controlled technologies are
now in the interest of both the people and researchers.
There are important issues, which are addressed by the
researchers based on traditional systems, interactions and
usability. The natural intuition of gesture control has
been addressed by many researchers. Gestural interfaces
have a number of potential advantages as well as some
potential disadvantages [31]. Gesture styles, application
domain, input and output are now a discipline of study
and research. The commercial sector has now started its
journey in response to the weight of research. In future,
we may see more research and commercial products. The
significance of the trends, necessities and themes of the
research studied, can be as follows.
Inclusive Design: Inclusive gesture controlled systems
can support a wide range of users including the elderly
and disabled.
Extensibility: The research and projects can be con-
nected to develop a standard platform. The platform can
be extended as time goes by. All commercial products
are proprietary types, which are in many cases, difficult
to extend and contribute.
Low Cost and Affordable Technology: The review
suggests that gesture controlled technology is now read-
ily affordable and offers a realistic opportunity. We see
that a very low cost DIY tool has been developed [32].
Converged and Ubiquitous: Technologies are being
converged. Digital television is now common in every
house hold. Net television [33], Gesture television [34]
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSEA
A Gesture Controlled User Interface for Inclusive Design and Evaluative Study of Its Usability
includes cameras and/or sensors with digital television.
Gesture controlled systems can be converged with famil-
iar and popular technologies such as the television.
The analysis shows a demand of discipline in the field.
A framework of GCUI development can provide meth-
odological approach. Open source Technology can pro-
vide a platform to develop extendible and interconnected
3. The Open Gesture Application: A
The Open Gesture application is based on the themes and
trends of the study, which uses open source software and
low-tech, affordable hardware. It is an augmented reality
application, which enables users to undertake everyday
tasks via a television screen (for example interacting with
appliances, switching lights on and off, and answering
the door). The aim of the Open Gesture application is to
provide Gesture Controlled User Interfaces for inclusive
design, enabling interaction to be more usable for a di-
verse range of users including older and disabled people.
Open Gesture has the following major characteristics:
1) Open source: Open Gesture has been developed as
an open source application. Von-Krogh and Spaeth [35]
state five characteristics of open-source software, that
promote research. Affordability and future extensibility
are two of the main reasons that influenced the develop-
ment the application using open source technologies.
2) SCUF design principles: The Open Gesture applica-
tion conforms to the usability principles of simplicity,
consistency, universality and familiarity, proposed by
Picking, et al. [36] and which have been successfully
applied to the Easyline [37] project’s usability design.
3) Integration & Convergent: There have been a num-
ber of research projects developing smart home envi-
ronments for elderly and disabled users [33,38-40]. The
Open Gesture application’s user interface is designed to
be generic and customizable to enable integration with
such other systems. The Open Gesture application can be
converted to run in a digital television. Users feel it a
familiar system to interact with when it is developed to
run on the screen of digital television.
4) Extensibility: Open Gesture is an application pro-
gram interface (API) based application. The API can be
used to design and develop the interface for different
types of users considering their individual needs. Some
conceptual tasks have already been tested. Example tasks
include: making a telephone call, playing ‘brain training’
games, controlling the computer, or home environment,
and social networking. A multi-modal input and feed-
back options, using gesture, voice, sound and light, can
also be integrated within the current API, primarily to
facilitate use by visually impaired users.
Interaction with Open Gesture
After running the application (which can be initiated by
selecting a pre-configured television channel), a user can
see his or her image on the television screen, which is
filmed through a connected webcam. The user can point
at different objects using hand gestures to perform vari-
ous tasks as shown in Figure 1. These objects can be text
and/or icons associated with the relevant tasks. If the user
points or makes a gesture to an object on the screen, the
Open Gesture application will execute the related task or
4. Usability Eval u a tion
A usability evaluation study was carried out using meth-
ods and techniques defined in Rubin et al. [41]. The
evaluation plan was formally approved by the Glyndŵr
(University) Research Ethics Standing Committee
(GRESC). An initial pilot study which ascertained the
overall feasibility of the Open Gesture application pre-
ceded the more detailed evaluation. The following sec-
tions explain the details of both studies. A total of 70
participants were invited from different age groups to-
wards achieving an inclusive design as shown in Table 1
and Figure 2.
Figure 1. Prototype design of the Op en Gesture App lication.
Figure 2. Users of different age-groups and abilities using
the Open Gesture Application.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSEA
A Gesture Controlled User Interface for Inclusive Design and Evaluative Study of Its Usability
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSEA
Table 1. Age-groups and numbers of evaluation studies. Though the participants were small in number for the
pilot study, however, it was ensured to accommodate
representative people from different age groups. There
were nine participants in all, three of whom were over 50
years old.
Male 39
Female 31
Total 70
18 - 30 16
31 - 40 16
41 -50 8
51 - 60 8
61 - 70 7
71 - 80 8
80+ 1
Special 6
The majority of the participants agreed with question 1
(rated 5 or higher out of 7) that it was simple to use this
system. Similarly, they also responded positively about
the learning of the system (question-2) and completing
the conceptual tasks (question-3). The concept of using
the GCUI was strongly supported by the participants.
Every participant was asked for their views on using
GCUI by older and disabled people to perform daily
tasks. The majority of the participants believed using the
system in households would increase the independence
of elderly users, especially for those with limited mobil-
ity. However, the need to support individual users with
varying abilities and requirements was highlighted.
4.1. Pilot Usability Evaluation
A pilot usability study conducted with selected partici-
pants using questions derived from a well-known generic
usability questionnaire [42], as depicted in Table 2.
The focus was on the following:
The pilot study offered positive progress towards the
effective interface design and detailed usability evalua-
tion. It provided a valuable opportunity of using the
GCUI, its associated hardware, Glyndwr University’s
usability laboratory, and the questionnaire tool with the
a) Personal usability feedback of the participant after
using the GCUI.
b) The participant’s general feedback regarding the
usability of the GCUI for older and disabled people.
c) Positive and negative aspects of the GCUI.
Table 2. Pilot usability evaluation questionnaire.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 NA
1. It was simple to use this system strongly
disagree strongly
2. It was easy to learn to use this system strongly
disagree strongly
3. I can effectively complete the
conceptual tasks using this system
disagree strongly
4. It is easy to find the information I
needed to perform a task.
disagree strongly
5. I like using the concept of using
Gesture Controlled user interface.
6. Using the system in households
would enable users to perform daily
activities more quickly.
unlikely likely
7. Using the system in households
would increase independence of
elderly users.
unlikely likely
8. Overall, I am satisfied with this
System. unlikely likely
Please write your overall impression about the research project:
9. List the most negative aspect(s):
10. List the most positive aspect(s):
11. What is your age group?
16 - 22
23 - 30
31 - 40
41 - 50
A Gesture Controlled User Interface for Inclusive Design and Evaluative Study of Its Usability
participants. After this study, we were confident in our
preparation for the main usability evaluation.
4.2. Main Usability Evaluation
We organized three test sessions varying in duration
from 45 minutes to 2 hours long. The goals of the ses-
sions were to determine users’ opinions on the applica-
tion’s usability.
Two of the older participants had some form of mobil-
ity disability. Each participant signed their consent to
undertake the tests. Sessions were recorded for later
analysis. During the test sessions, participants were asked
to contribute their observations about any surprises and
issues. After the three sessions were completed, partici-
pants were interviewed and filled out the usability ques-
tionnaire shown in Table 3.
5. Results
The results of the questionnaire responses are summa-
rized in Table 1. Means and standard deviations have
been calculated by transposing the Likert scale used in
the questionnaire ranging from a score of 5 (for strongly
disagree) up to 1 (for strongly agree).
Mean time and success rate of the two sample tasks
are shown in Table 5. Task 1 is selecting an object and
task 2 is changing the selection from one object to an-
From the success rate and mean of timing for each task,
it can be said that performance of the participants to in-
teract with a GCUI is very significant and inclusive. We
have already seen the success rate is 100% for all users in
all age groups. Mean plots of the mean values of the
tasks with different age groups were prepared. However,
the time taken to complete a task increases with the in-
crease of participants’ age as shown in Figure 3.
6. Discussion
The evaluation study is an important part of achieving
Table 3. Main usability study questionnaire.
Usability evaluation questionnaire
All responses will be kept strictly confidential and be kept in accordance with the Data Protection Act. The purpose of this questionnaire is to pro-
vide us with the necessary information needed to evaluate the designed user interfaces.
Usability test number: _____ Date: ______________ Location: ___________________
I. Design and Layout
agree Agree Neither agree
or disagree Disagree Strongly
disagree Not Applicable
1. I liked using the interface.            
2. The organization of information
presented was clear.            
3. The interface was pleasant to use.            
4. The sequence of screens was clear.            
V. Ease of use
agree Agree Neither agree
or disagree Disagree Strongly
disagree Not Applicable
5. It was simple to use this system.            
6. It was easy to find the information I
VI. Learn ability
agree Agree Neither agree
or disagree Disagree Strongly
disagree Not Applicable
7. It was easy to learn to use the system.            
8. The information provided by the
system was easy to understand.            
VII. Satisfaction
agree Agree Neither agree
or disagree Disagree Strongly
disagree Not Applicable
9. I felt comfortable using the system.            
10. Overall, I am satisfied with this
Thank you for your participation! Please return this questionnaire in the envelope provided as soon as possible.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSEA
A Gesture Controlled User Interface for Inclusive Design and Evaluative Study of Its Usability 519
Table 4. Questionnaire results.
Question Mean Standard deviation
1 2.8 1.1
2 2.96 0.88
3 2.69 0.88
4 3.13 0.9
5 2.91 0.99
6 3.21 0.74
7 3.13 1.01
8 3.38 0.88
9 2.69 0.88
10 2.74 0.86
Table 5. Success rate and mean time of the tasks.
Tasks Success (%) Mean time (in sec)
Task 1 100% 0.9808
Task 2 100% 1.0959
inclusive design and usability goals of any user interface.
The scale of 1.5 for question responses gives us a neutral
value (neither agree nor disagree). Table 4 clearly shows
that this neutrality is largely propagated throughout.
These figures are very similar for all age groups, indicat-
ing consistency across the full age range. Whilst these
results are disappointing to an extent, in that the GCUI
has not been positively endorsed by the participants, nei-
ther has it been rejected.
Concerning the usability analysis, it could be argued
that an average value of two to three could be accepted
for an application such as Open Gesture. More informa-
tion on learning and understanding needs to be provided
in the interface.
Time and age factors in a GCUI were studied (in Ta-
ble 5 and chart 1) and the data was analysed. It was re-
vealed that users from any age group, or of limited ability,
could perform the gesture interaction in a GCUI, and that
the timing of tasks varies with users’ age and ability. An
analysis of variance (ANOVA) on all of the data was run
(not shown here) thorough which participants’ feedback
was verified with different age groups and it revealed a
non-significant effect of the age on the participants’
7. Future Work and Conclusions
Clearly, more research is required into determining the
best configurations for the Open Gesture application.
Individual preferences should also be supported, espe-
cially where issues of inclusion are apparent. We intend
to continue this research, and will evaluate more alterna-
tives with our user groups. We also plan to undertake a
Figure 3. Mean plot of fastest time of the tasks.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSEA
A Gesture Controlled User Interface for Inclusive Design and Evaluative Study of Its Usability
detailed analysis of Fitt’s law [43] in relation to GCUI,
with a view to extending the law to account for obstacles
on the screen (for example, other targets), as well as in-
corporating ability factors into the equation. Such factors
may include user age and physical dexterity.
Open Gesture aims to support a range of users with
differing needs—both physical and cognitive. However,
visually impaired users are clearly disadvantaged by
Open Gesture’s method of visualization. Integrating mul-
timodal input and feedback options will make the appli-
cation more accessible for users with a range of special
needs. Open Gesture uses pointing gestures to manipu-
late the objects of the interface. Other popular gestures of
our daily activities, for example waving a hand in the
right direction to execute “Next”, and head nodding to
agree or to confirm an action can also be used.
Our vision is of a person including elderly and dis-
abled, who may be sitting in front of a television, and
who can use simple gestures to interact with that televi-
sion to perform a diverse range of tasks. We have devel-
oped an augmented reality application based on open
source software and using low-tech hardware, which
enables users to undertake a range of tasks via the televi-
sion screen. The results are inconclusive, but we con-
clude that there is potential and scope to continue the
research to improve GCUI technology for inclusive de-
8. Acknowledgements
This work was supported by the Overseas Research
Scholarship Award Scheme (ORSAS), UK.
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