Multimodal Interactions and Passwords

To me, passwords are no longer just an ordered list of characters. My increasing proficiency with a standard US-keyboard has tied in the motion of my hands with the position and combination of the keys on the keyboard to generate the password. The muscle memory in reference here held me in good stead when remembering passwords across various websites and typing them out effortlessly. However, when I enter a need to type in a password to log into a service using my smartphone, the position and the combination of the keys on the touch keyboard are now altered, breaking my flow. What would follow is my visualizing the password as a string of keys and how that often works is reimagining my the hand movements on the standard physical keyboard.

Alluding to McCullough’s point about computers being a tool for the mind and not for the hands, this resonates strongly with me in almost an ironic way as while the keyboard-based computers are accused of restricting what our hands could do and touch-based devices seem to have freed the range of motion for our hands, touch devices in this example force a cognitive responsibility back on the mind and the hands play a subservient role again. This however, as a trend may not last long as technologies like replacing your password with your brainwaves can bypass the hands altogether and workarounds like Slack sending a ‘magic link’ to your inbox to log in are emerging and extant respectively. This is also ideal as typing a password isn’t exactly pleasurable, but it illustrates the importance that hands have in letting the mind not be burdened by mundane tasks.

In so far as an experience goes in terms of reutilizing the notion of touch and movements of hands, Virtual Reality apps like BowSlinger in The Lab (played on an HTC Vive) and Google’s TiltBrush are on the right track to revive the usage of hands in a more generative way. The former uses a multimodal interaction coupling the pull of the arrow on the bow with the sound of the string stretching to give you an illusion of tension in the string; and it certainly engages the hands more actively than writing out passwords. While the technology may be far too advanced to do away with the Vive hand controllers which hold the hand in a semi-closed position and include non-intuitive motions like having a trackpad near the thumb, we might be able to witness devices which provide feedback to various positions on our palms without it having to be in one type of position and also create resistance if needed. For example, would you be able to feel the weight of a heavy object if you tried to lift it in virtual reality? Or would the sensors on your palms recreate the feel of petting a dog?

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