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Chorded Asymmetrical Bimanual Computer-Human-Interaction

Whereas typing on a keyboard or playing the Piano means having equivalent tasks being performed by the left and the right hand, most human actions have vastly different uses for the two. For instance, when threading a needle, the dominant hand performs the fine mechanics and the other fills a fixating function. Taking advantage of the left-right hand divide might lead to improvements in Human-Computer-Interactions.

Bill Buxton explains that given simple tasks, a subdivision of labour between the hands might give improvements. The left hand might for example switch between tools in a graphical editor whereas the right hand applies them. In the case of simple tasks on both ends, not only do we get rid of the time needed to move the cursor and the cognitive delay of a context switch, but the tasks can also start to appear in parallel.

Whereas I suspect that the vast majority of office workers in the west take a minimal-effort approach to their efficiency, as long as they are sufficiently above average, it’s fine. For other fields it is different, for instance consider a highly ranked FPS player – you’ll never find such a person having a key mapped to the right side of the keyboard. The hands ought to remin on their home positions at all times, for peak efficiency and to minimize finger/hand traveling distance and the delays they bring.

One – and I take it quite a few of my dear readers – has approached the problem of moving the hand back and forth to the mouse by turning towards a fully symmetric bimanual strategy, by using terminal only programs, removing the need for a mouse. This works badly however with say image editing.

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Back to the roots

So what if we instead of thinking of controlling a computer as playing the piano, became a bit more hip and started thinking of it as an electrical guitar. The guitar example is here particularly suited due to its use of simultaneous input in the forms of – well, you guessed it! Chords.

The video above demonstrates how two categories of tasks can be performed by each hand. The left hand decides upon which symbol to be entered whereas the right hand decides where it ends up.

Exemplifying the use of an asymmetric bimanual approach, it seems to be very natural to humans. Also it demonstrates the value of having a transparent menu-like system on screen at the hud; easily movable by the mouse to stay out of the way.

Ruppe method

On the lobste.rs forum I ran into the brilliant Adam Ruppe, a brilliant mind and a D guru. In fact a published author on the subject. He also happens to be my first patreon so an all around great guy.

His idea is to apply the asymmetry of human hand usage to select letters using a gamepad. Whereas the left hand could select a group of letters and the right hand choose from them; another example of an asymmetrical approach that I find very promising.

Adam D. Ruppe’s homepage

Be more like him and please comment on this webpage or over at Hacker News or lobste.rs if you have any ideas like this. Also please, do not hesitate to contact me in case I’ve gotten something wrong, I’d rather stand correct and fix the error than to live in ignorance!
Sharing means bringing more ideas to the table and who knows maybe a combination of your ideas will be the input method of the future.

Bill Buxton on two handed input

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