Hasso-Plattner-Institut für Softwaresystemtechnik
Imaginary Interfaces

Human-Computer Interaction group

Hasso Plattner Institute

Prof.-Dr.-Helmert-Str. 2-3
D-14482 Potsdam, Germany

Prof. Patrick Baudisch

Imaginary Interfaces

Imaginary Interfaces is a research project led by Sean Gustafson at the Human Computer Interaction Lab of Prof. Patrick Baudisch at Hasso Plattner Institute.  


Screenless mobile devices achieve maximum mobility, but at the expense of the visual feedback that is generally assumed to be necessary for spatial interaction. With Imaginary Interfaces we re-enable spatial interaction on screenless devices. Users point and draw in the empty space in front of them or on the palm of their hands. While they cannot see the results of their interaction, they do obtain some visual feedback by watching their hands move. Our user studies show that Imaginary Interfaces allow users to create simple drawings, to annotate with them and to operate interfaces, as long as their layout mimics a physical device they have used before. We demonstrate how this allows an imaginary interface to serve as a shortcut for a physical device and we believe that ultimately Imaginary Interfaces will lead to the development of standalone ultra-mobile devices.



On going work in Imaginary Interfaces includes the Imaginary Phone (see the separate page here: Imaginary Phone) and the Draw-Your-Own Interfaces demonstration that shows an exploration into the future of home interfaces. By tracing the shape of a button on any surface in your home you can create an imaginary button that will turn on your TV or dim the lights. Since the button exists only in your imagination, residents of a house are able to place a light switch where it is most convenient for each of them. Instead of searching for the TV remote control you can just draw it on the arm of the couch and use that. With a set of depth cameras, the demonstration system senses touch on arbitrary surfaces and recognizes when someone draws a new button. Simply touch the imaginary button where you remember drawing it and the TV turns on.



Sean Gustafson, Daniel Bierwirth and Patrick Baudisch. 2010. Imaginary Interfaces: Spatial Interaction with Empty Hands and Without Visual Feedback. In Proceedings of the Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST '10), 3-12. PDF (1 MB) Slides (21MB)


Here is a short 3min video from our UIST 2010 paper:

And longer video (in German) that explains the concept to a more general audience:



Slashdot - German Researchers Show Off a Gesture-Based Interface. June 10, 2010

Popular Science -'Imaginary' Hardware Interface Lets Users Wield Their Own Fantasy Peripherals to Control a Real Device. June 9, 2010

TechNewsDaily - 'Imaginary' Interface Could Replace Screens and Keyboards. June 8, 2010
   syndicated at: MSNBC, Live Science

c't - Telefonieren mit Koerpereinsatz. June 7, 2010

MIT Technology Review - An Invisible Touch for Mobile Devices. May 25, 2010

Kate Greene.net - An Imaginary Interface. May 25, 2010