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Exclusive: Designing Single-handed Shortcuts for VR & AR



For new computing technologies to realize their full potential they need new user interfaces. The most essential interactions in virtual spaces are grounded in direct physical manipulations like pinching and grabbing, as these are universally accessible. However, the team at Leap Motion has also investigated more exotic and exciting interface paradigms from arm HUDs and digital wearables, to deployable widgets containing buttons, sliders, and even 3D trackballs and color pickers.

Guest Article by Barrett Fox & Martin Schubert

Barrett is the Lead VR Interactive Engineer for Leap Motion. Through a mix of prototyping, tools and workflow building with a user driven feedback loop, Barrett has been pushing, prodding, lunging, and poking at the boundaries of computer interaction.

Martin is Lead Virtual Reality Designer and Evangelist for Leap Motion. He has created multiple experiences such as Weightless, Geometric, and Mirrors, and is currently exploring how to make the virtual feel more tangible.

Barrett and Martin are part of the elite Leap Motion team presenting substantive work in VR/AR UX in innovative and engaging ways.

As we move from casual VR applications to deeper and longer sessions, design priorities naturally shift toward productivity and ergonomics. One of the most critical areas of interaction design that comes up is mode switching and shortcuts.

Today we use keyboard shortcuts so often that it’s difficult to imagine using a computer without them. Ctrl+Z, Ctrl+C, and Ctrl+V are foundational to the efficiency of keyboard and mouse input. Most of you reading this have committed these to muscle memory.

In VR we’ve seen controller inputs adopt this shortcut paradigm relatively easily by remapping commands to buttons, triggers, trackpads, and analog sticks. To increase or decrease the brush size in Tilt Brush you swipe right or left on the trackpad of your brush hand.

But what happens when we think about one-handed rapid selections for bare-handed input? This requires a different kind of thinking, as we don’t have buttons or other mechanical inputs to lean on. In our previous work, we’ve mapped these kinds of commands to either world-space user interfaces (e.g. control panels) or wearable interfaces that use the palette paradigm, where one hand acts as a collection of options while the other acts as a picker.

But if we could mode switch or modify a currently active tool with just one hand instead of two we would see gains in speed, focus, and comfort that would add up over time. We could even design an embodied and spatial shortcut system without the need to look at our hands, freeing our gaze and increasing productivity further.

Direct Manipulation vs. Abstract Gestures

One way to activate a shortcut with a single hand would be to define an abstract gesture as a trigger. Essentially this would be a hand pose or a movement of a hand over time. This is an exception to a general rule at Leap Motion, where we typically favor direct physical manipulation of virtual objects as an interaction paradigm over using abstract gestures. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Abstract gestures are often ambiguous. How do we define an abstract gesture like ‘swipe up’ in three-dimensional space? When and where does a swipe begin or end? How quickly must it be completed? How many fingers must be involved?
  • Less abstract interactions reduce the learning curve for users. Everyone can tap into into a lifetime of experience with directly manipulating physical objects in the real world. Trying to teach a user specific movements so they can perform commands reliably is a significant challenge.
  • Shortcuts need to be quickly and easily accessible but hard to trigger accidentally. These design goals seem at odds! Ease of accessibility means expanding the range of valid poses/movements, but this makes us more likely to trigger the shortcut unintentionally.

To move beyond this issue, we decided that instead of using single gesture to trigger a shortcut, we would gate the action into two sequential stages.

The First Gateway: Palm Up

Our interaction design philosophy always looks to build on existing conventions and metaphors. One major precedent that we’ve set over time in our digital wearables explorations is that hand-mounted menus are triggered by rotating the palm to face the user.

This works well in segmenting interactions based on which direction your hands are facing. Palms turned away from yourself and toward the rest of the scene imply interaction with the external world. Palms turned toward yourself imply interactions in the near field with internal user interfaces. Palm direction seemed like a suitable first condition, acting as a gate between normal hand movement and a user’s intention to activate a shortcut.

The Second Gateway: Pinch

Now that your palm is facing yourself, we looked for a second action which would be easily triggered, well defined and deliberate. A pinch checks all these boxes:

  • It’s low-effort. Just move your index finger and thumb!
  • It’s well defined. You get self-haptic feedback when your fingers make contact, and the action can be defined and represented by the tracking system as reaching a minimum distance between tracked index and thumb tips.
  • It’s deliberate. You’re not likely to absent-mindedly pinch your fingers with your palm up.

Performing both of these actions, one after another, is both quick and easy, yet difficult to do unintentionally. This sequence seemed like a solid foundation for our single-handed shortcuts exploration. The next challenge was how we would afford the movement, or in other words, how someone would know that this is what they needed to do.

Thinking back on the benefits of direct manipulation versus abstract gestures we wondered if we could blend the two paradigms. By using a virtual object to guide a user through the interaction, could we make them feel like they were directly manipulating something while in fact performing an action closer to an abstract gesture?

The Powerball

Our solution was to create an object attached to the back of your hand which acts as a visual indicator of your progress through the interaction as well as a target for pinching. If your palm faces away, the object stays locked to the back of your hand. As your palm rotates toward yourself the object animates up off your hand towards a transform offset that is above but still relative to your hand.

Once your palm fully faces toward yourself and the object has animated to its end position, pinching the object – a direct manipulation – will trigger the shortcut. We dubbed this object the Powerball. After some experimentation, we had it animate into the pinch point (a constantly updating position defined as the midpoint between the index finger and thumb tips).

This blend of graphic affordance, pseudo-direct manipulation, gestural movement, and embodied action proved easy to learn and ripe with potential for extension. Now it was time to look at what kinds of shortcut interface systems would be ergonomic and reliably tracked from this palm-up-pinched-fingers position.

Continued on Page 2: Spatial Interface Selection »

The post Exclusive: Designing Single-handed Shortcuts for VR & AR appeared first on Road to VR.



Twitter’s Jack Dorsey takes aim at Coinbase’s apolitical stance



Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has taken major U.S. crypto exchange Coinbase to task over its open letter to employees published on Sep 28. 

The letter, written by Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, explained why the firm intends to avoid political and social distractions, and instead focus on its core mission of building an open financial system for the world.

The new direction has met with strong support in some quarters and pushback from others.

In a Twitter post to his 4.7 million followers, Dorsey argues that “Bitcoin (aka crypto) is direct activism against an unverifiable and exclusionary financial system.” He goes on to add that the exchange cannot simply ignore social issues as this will leave its customers behind:

Dorsey has long taken an active involvement in the cryptocurrency space, and Twitter itself has been criticized for favoring progressive over conservative political views in its moderation process. But Dorsey’s opinion urging greater political engagement was not well received by the crypto community with the overwhelming number of replies agreeing with Armstrong’s approach.

The vice president of venture capital firm Founders Fund, Mike Solana, did not agree with Dorsey opposing “a corporate trend away from polarizing political statements and dramatic displays of culture war pageantry”. Solana contrasted this apolitical approach with Twitter’s business model and suggested Dorsey was “a man who makes hundreds of millions of dollars fueling political polarization.”

Adam Draper, the son of famed crypto investor Tim Draper, praised the Coinbase approach, comparing Armstrong to Michael Jordanfor his single-minded focus on advancing the virtual currency sector:

“This is thought leadership. We get things done when we are all focused on a unified mission. Brian is Jordan in his prime right now. If anyone is selling shares of Coinbase, I’ll buy.”

Dorsey wasn’t entirely without support however:

Coinbase has offered any employee who fundamentally disagrees with Armstrong’s position a severance package of up to six months. The email added: “it’s always sad when we see teammates go, but it can also be what is best for them and the company.”


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Bermuda grants Bittrex DABA license to commence local operations



The island nation of Bermuda is in the news today after it gave U.S-based cryptocurrency exchange, Bittrex, a Class F (“Full’’) Digital Assets Business Act license that will allow the platform to operate under the supervision of the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA). According to Bittrex Global CEO Tom Albright, Bittrex (Bermuda) will provide additional digital asset services like Futures, in particular, based on further approvals by the BMA. 

Bermuda’s Digital Assets Business Act of 2018 (DABA) is a comprehensive regulatory framework that oversees crypto-financial services, including digital asset issuance, sale and redemption, exchange operations, and custodial services. 

However, Bittrex is not the first entity to receive Bermuda’s DABA license since Circle was the first major crypto-company to receive Bermuda’s Class F DABA license. Meanwhile, the island nation had also struck a $15 million investment deal with Binance in the past. These developments are a sign of how the island nation has been keen to adopt cryptocurrency and blockchain tech over the past few months and years.  

Like Bermuda, many governments across several nations have only now begun to study the use cases of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. However, Bermuda was one of the first sovereign nations to accept payments in USDC stablecoins for tax payments, fees, and other government services.

In fact, in 2019, Bermuda also announced the development of its blockchain-based digital ID system, followed by a stimulus token that allowed the distribution of financial aid to its population. The token project in question was actually accelerated after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic for people in need of emergency funds. 


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Judge Rules Kik’s Token Sale Violated US Securities Law



A U.S. judge ruled Wednesday that Kik violated securities law when it raised $100 million via a token sale in 2017.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein, a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York, wrote that in his view, Kik’s “token distribution event” (TDE) satisfied the three prongs of the Howey Test, referring to the Supreme Court case used as a standard for determining whether the sale of something is a securities sale. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which filed the suit against Kik last year, maintained that the messaging platform’s Kin token sale was an unregistered securities offering while Kik claimed it was not.

“Kik concedes that its issuance of Kin through the TDE involved an investment of money by which participants purchased or acquired Ether and exchanged Ether for Kin. Thus, the parties agree that the first element of the Howey test is satisfied,” he said in the 19-page ruling. “The parties dispute whether the second and third elements are satisfied. I hold that that they are.”

Initial coin offerings (ICOs) and token sales have been treated as unregistered securities sales for the most part by the SEC, which has filed suits against numerous startups and companies, including Telegram, another messaging company that raised a mammoth $1.7 billion.

Many of these cases use Howey, which says something might be a security if there is an investment of money in a common enterprise, with the expectation of profit, primarily from the efforts of others.

Judge Hellerstein wrote Wednesday that Kik “extolled Kin’s profit-making potential,” satisfying one of the prongs, and that Kik “pooled proceeds from its sales of Kin in an effort to create an infrastructure for Kin, and thus boost the value of the investment.”

This satisfies another prong, he said.

In a statement, Kik CEO Ted Livingston said he was “disappointed in this ruling,” and that the company is considering its options, including a potential appeal.

“To be clear, Kik has always supported the Commission’s goal of protecting investors, and we take compliance seriously. In preparing for the sale of Kin, Kik retained sophisticated counsel (both in the United States and internationally) to analyze the law as we understood it, and we continue to believe that the public sale of Kin was that of a functional currency and not a sale of securities,” he said.

Livingston added that the ruling would not impact kin.

Kik general counsel Eileen Lyon took aim at the SEC in a statement, saying the agency “should engage in proper rulemaking, including the opportunity for public commentary, rather than force our industry to hunt for regulatory clues among the SEC’s conflicting statements, Commissioner and staff speeches, no-action letters, closed-door meetings with the SEC and nonprecedential settlements.”

The parties have until Oct. 20 to file either a joint proposal for providing relief to Kik’s investors, or a document explaining their positions on how to proceed.


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