Soravis Prakkamakul on VR at CHI 2019

28 May, 2019

Soravis Prakkamakul on VR at CHI 2019

Soravis Prakkamakul received a Spring 2019 BCNM Conference Grant to help cover his costs attending the Human Factors in Computing Systems conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Soravis presented "Exploring Word-gesture Text Entry Techniques in Virtual Reality." Read more about his experience in his own words below!

I had the opportunity to present my poster “Exploring Word-gesture Text Entry Techniques in Virtual Reality” at The 2019 ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI2019) in Glasgow, United Kingdom. I would like to thank the BCNM for supporting my travel.

Overview of my Research

The efficiency of text entry in Virtual Reality (VR) is crucial to the adoption of VR applications. The current de facto method involves using VR controllers to point and select each character one-by-one. The state of the art methods such as using physical keyboards with tracked hand avatars require a complex setup which might not be accessible to the majority of VR users. The goal of our project is to apply the word-gesture text entry technique (a.k.a. Swipe Typing) prevalent in mobile devices to VR. We propose two novel ways to enter text in VR: 1) Word-gesture typing using six degrees of freedom (6DOF) VR controllers; and 2) word-gesture typing using pressure-sensitive touchscreen devices. Our early-stage pilot experiment shows that users were able to type at 16.4 WPM and 9.6 WPM on the two techniques respectively without any training, while an expert's typing speeds reached up to 34.2 WPM and 22.4 WPM. Users subjectively preferred the VR controller method over the touchscreen one in terms of usability and task load. We conclude that both techniques are practical and deserve further study.

The project stems from the class CS294-137: Theory and Applications of Virtual Reality and Immersive Computing during Fall 2018. Our full team consists of Sibo Chen, Junce Wang (Undergraduate Exchange Student, EECS), Santiago Guerra (Haas MBA), Neha Mittal, and Soravis Prakkamakul (I-School). Our preview video could be found at

Me and Neha Mittal with our poster at CHI

Interesting Works at CHI2019

The conference was a great chance to learn about the works by researchers who are interested in the same problem spaces and text entry is one of them. I attend Anna Maria Feit’s (whose work I also cited) dissertation award talk. For most of her doctoral journey, Feit has been working to optimize text entry by optimizing the keyboard layout according to how languages are used. She lead the development of the new French standard keyboard layout which is now adopted by the French government. Within VR specifically, there’s a work by Son et al. from KAIST about improving two-thumb typing on VR controllers by providing visual feedback and improving grip stability.

Apart from text entry, my main interests are in virtual/augmented reality and design tools. Luckily, there are several paper presentation tracks about that at CHI. Among my favorite ones is Virtual Showdown by Wedoff et al. which brings Showdown, a sport that is already played by people with visual impairment, to VR. Saquib et al. from MIT Media Lab proposed a tool to create body-driven augmented video performance. I really liked Shugrina et al’s paper, Color Builder, which presents novel advantages over other existing color pallette authoring tools by providing visualizations of gradient steps and in-context color picker.