Vodafone Group R&D-UK
Vodafone W3C Advisory Committee Representative
Group Technology Strategy
14 June 2004
As mobile devices shrink in size, become increasingly rich in functionality and complex to use, mobile users find service interaction more challenging. Multimodal user interfaces can overcome these challenges through human-terminal interface solutions that enhance terminal usability and service accessibility.
Rich interfaces which engage with the user in multiple modalities, such as audio, visual, tactile and sensory input and output modes, can simplify access to information. For example, speech recognition technology can be widely used with most, if not all, mobile applications, as an alternative to key entry, for navigating through the handset menu structure and for managing personal information and preferences. Virtual/projected keyboards and handwriting recognition technology provide alternative ways of overcoming the issue of key entry using a small keypad. A tactile interface could also add to the human-terminal interaction experience, as haptic sensations elicit cognitive and emotional responses from users that sight and sound alone cannot accomplish. Sensors in the device can also be used to enable a multimodal application to deliver the desired content in a timely manner, at the right place and in the most appropriate format, based on collected information, such as user location, environment and activities.
The interface can thus be optimally adapted to take into consideration the user's context and preferences, in a manner which is seamless to the user. As a result, the mobile user is provided with an intuitive way of communicating with the mobile terminal and consequently a compelling user experience. Multimodal interfaces are particularly applicable to mobile applications because of the limited attention and time that users have for interacting with services while mobile (for example, when driving a car).
Vodafone would like to see open standards emerge to support multimodal interfaces. Ideally, development of these should be coordinated / aligned with the Open Mobile Alliance's work in this same area.
Multimodal technologies have a key role to play in improving terminal and service accessibility, and also in creating new, compelling applications for mobile consumers. It is therefore of paramount importance to understand the benefits that this emerging technology can bring.
Vodafone R&D UK are in discussion with vendors of multimodal solutions to investigate innovative multimodal service concepts, with the aim of developing demonstration applications that show proof of concept. Some of the fundamental areas being investigated will be shared with the OMA Multimodal Architecture community.