Notes on Future Language, part 5

In addition to relying on speech to fill in the meaning of iconic gestures, it will also be useful to provide each conversant the option to sketch specific shapes in the air while speaking. This would be helpful in situations where a physical shape contributes strongly to the intended meaning of the speech act.

For example, saying the word “time” while drawing a rectangle might result in a calendar, whereas saying the same word while drawing a circle might result in a clock. In each case, the drawn shape acts as a modifier on the spoken word, lending it a more context-specific meaning.

It will also be useful to distinguish between three ways to gesture with the hands: one-handed, symmetric two handed, or asymmetric two-handed.

An example of a one-handed gesture would be: Close the fist on a visual icon, move the hand, and then release the fist, which could be a way to indicate: “I move this to over there.”

An example of a symmetric two-handed gesture would be: Hold the two hands open with palms facing each other so that an icon is positioned between them, then spread the hands further apart, which could be a way to indicate “Let’s zoom in on this to see more detail.”

An example of an asymmetric two-handed gesture would be: Close the fist of one hand on an object, then pull the other hand, with fist closed, away from the first hand, which could be a way to indicate: “Let’s make a copy of this.”

More tomorrow.

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