Controlling a computer with a gesture
The DesIRe system
allows for precise
writing of 3-D text.
SYDNEY, Australia – A very simple principle is at the heart of Dr. Manolya
Kavakli’s high-tech computer interfacing
technologies: Less is more.
Kavakli, founder of the Virtual and Interactive Simulations of Reality Research
Group at Macquarie University, did not
start off in the virtual reality field. Trained
as an architect at Istanbul Technical University in Turkey, she was an associate
professor of architectural design at her
alma mater for 10 years.
“I have always had an interest in using
high technology in the field of design,”
she said. When she officially switched
fields, she began by looking for ways to
make computers more intelligent and more
creative, and she soon realized that the
definition of intelligence was unclear
and creativity not yet understood.
Kavakli’s goal became making it easier for anyone to be creative. “I wanted
to design platforms to support everyone
to express their creativity freely.”
Teaching architectural design, she
learned what kinds of tools inspire creativity and how novice designers learn
to use them. “When I was a postdoctoral
fellow in the UK and Australia,” she
said, “I explored the nature of the design
process, especially how designers exter- With DesIRe, users can communicate
nalize their design ideas and what tools with game characters.
would best support this early conceptual
design phase without interfering with their
creativity and cognitive processing.
“As we all know, motor skills are quite
important in this externalization, which
puts some highly creative people in a disadvantaged situation, just because they do
not have the necessary drawing or sketching skills. This also led me to think about
the physically disabled people, who are
more disadvantaged than all of the others.
“Existing tools are too complex to use,
and they all require a considerable amount
So, for the past five years, Kavakli and
her research team have been working on
interaction and visualization using virtual
reality technology, always keeping the
“less is more” mantra in mind.
“The best user interface is a nonexistent
one,” she said. “The user interface has to
be intuitive and transparent. Interaction
shouldn’t interfere with our cognitive processing. As a natural consequence of this,
I came up with the idea of gesture recognition that would remove the interface totally from the scene.”
She and her team developed two ges-ture-recognition systems: DESigning In
virtual Reality, or DesIRe, and DRiving
for disabled, aka DRive.
“DesIRe allows any user to control dynamically in real-time simulators or other
programs” using finger movements,
Kavakli said. To operate DesIRe, the user
dons a data glove with LEDs, and two
The interface used in the DRive system has been
tested in a game-like virtual environment.