A review of state of the art and emerging interaction technologies and their impact on design and designing in the future

D. Boa, Philip Cash, B. Hicks

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Engineering design generates a large quantity of digital and physical information in a wide variety of formats, which can be challenging to manage effectively. With designers increasingly having to consider a product’s entire lifecycle and potentially coordinate the activities of an internationally distributed supply and manufacturing network this is only becoming more difficult. Issues with fragmented information, integrating physical and digital information and productivity all contribute to these difficulties.
Digital information has several distinct management advantages over physical information (such as paper documents) including indexing, searching, editing and replicating. Whilst certain design activities and their associated information can be readily digitised the process of doing so often leads to a loss in the intrinsic value of the original format. Furthermore, performing the same task on a
computer can hinder the activity, such as sketching and making personal notes (McAlpine 2010). This suggests that the process of interacting with the information is a key issue that needs to be addressed to help bridge the physical-digital divide.
Interaction technologies have developed substantially over recent years including gesture control with the Kinect and multi-touch screens, driven by increased focus placed on usability by consumer
electronics companies. These emerging and state of the art interaction technologies offer the potential to improve the way designers interact with digital information in a number of ways; existing digital
interactions can be improved by replacing ill-suited modalities (interaction communication paths: vision, sensory and auditory (Karray et al. 2008)) with more natural and intuitive interfaces; physical
interactions can be digitised; information from capturing interaction can be used to generate knowledge about how designers work, for example; the divide between digital and physical information can be reduced through for example AR; introduce new ways of working. This paper reviews these technologies giving examples of how they are currently used and how they could be introduced into the design process. The review is not intended to be exhaustive but provides suggestions for further research as to how the interaction technologies could be used to support design in the future. Comments will be made on the quality of existing interaction modalities and how the “designer-computer interface” is moving towards a bi-directional modality future where users input and output information from computers simultaneously in multiple ways.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesign 2012 - International Design Conference
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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