Using Laban Movement Analysis for Interaction Design

24 Jun 2008 - 10:40am
8 years ago
6 replies
1891 reads
Doug Fox

As the number of gesture, movement and body-based interfaces increases, it
strikes me that there is a need for documenting and analyzing these
interactions from a body-centric perspective.

Yet, I can find very few instances where a somatic or movement analysis
and notation system such as Laban Movement Analysis is used to better
understand these interactions. Here's an introduction to Laban Movement

Here are my two questions:

1) To what extent are you specifically studying how the body (or specific
parts of the body) move to interact with different gesture and body-based
interfaces? If you are, what frameworks are you using for this analysis?

2) To what extent are you gathering and analyzing information about the
experience of movement from the user's perspective? For example, what are
the emotional, psychological and physiological states of the user as he or
she interacts with different interfaces?

I look forward to your thoughts about this topic.

Doug Fox
doug at


24 Jun 2008 - 11:32am
Dan Saffer

On Jun 24, 2008, at 8:40 AM, Doug Fox wrote:

> As the number of gesture, movement and body-based interfaces
> increases, it
> strikes me that there is a need for documenting and analyzing these
> interactions from a body-centric perspective.

I'm covering this in the Interactive Gestures book, including a bit on
Labanotation, Benesh Movement Notation, and Eshkol Wachman Movement
Notation. All of these systems are usually too complicated for
designers to mess with overmuch, but interesting from a background

I've got a whole chapter on Documenting Gestural Interfaces.


Dan Saffer
Interactive Gestures: Designing Gestural Interfaces
O'Reilly, Fall 2008

24 Jun 2008 - 6:09pm
Max Snyder

Natalie Ebenreuter gave a talk at Emergence 2006 about her doctoral work involving dance and service design. Part of her presentation involved Labanotation.

Her presentation is still on the Emergence 2006 site:

She also has a website:
with a section on LabanAssist and some other good resources.



25 Jun 2008 - 8:06am
Dan Saffer

On Jun 25, 2008, at 1:13 AM, Andrew Boyd wrote:

> Here is the big question: could a smart system record these
> meanderings and keystroke-model-analogue them sometime in the
> future? It may not be technically possible yet (without the human
> tagging that we do with the likes of Morae) but I am wondering if
> perhaps it is desirable.
> Thoughts?

It would be desirable, although limited in use and require some sort
of multi-camera setup that would either have to be installed and
callibrated, or you could pay to go to a special location and do it,
much like a sound studio. There are several systems now for the Wii
that do this sort of automatic recording of movement with the Wiimote,
saving oodles of time, but nothing, as far as I know aside from motion
capture systems which are pretty expensive and require a lot of
specialized equipment, for this sort of easy full-body capture.


25 Jun 2008 - 8:44am
Doug Fox

Dan, I look forward to your upcoming book on Interactive Gestures.

I think that there are two different questions here:

1) Putting aside the difficulty and complexity of various movement
notation systems for a moment: As we move from basic implementations
of multitouch (e.g., Mac mousepad) to more expansive partial and
full-body movement as input, then does the range and quality of this
movement have to be more rigorously studied and analyzed?

IxDA members have probably seen many of the videos I've collected in
two different posts that show the extent to which body and movement
play an ever greater role in the latest interfaces:

2) If it's decided that this movement does have to be studied and
captured, then what is the best system and approach for doing this?
And do people in interaction design field need these notation skills
or will they need to work with people who have these skills? My hunch
is (and I'm not in the interaction design field) that there will be a
strong need to document all of these movements and gestures - for
baseline, research, analysis and comparative purposes. And that the
automated capture process that you refer to above will clearly
improve over time. But trained movement notators will also be
required for some time to come.

Also, in my post above, I did not include a recent post of mine :

"Applying Laban Movement Analysis to Interaction Design"

In this post, I reference one of the only examples I could find of
how Labanotation was used to analyze interaction design. I think that
the passages I quote are especially interesting because they explain
why a body-based notation system is necessary and what specifically
it contributes to the understanding of this process.

Allison, I think that you bring-up an important point about knowledge
and experience with movement education systems. If I hadn't taken
classes in Skinner Release Technique and other somatic education
approaches, then I would have only the vaguest idea of how these
movement systems might relate to interaction design. And the question
for this discussion is how much knowledge and experience is really
required in this movement-education area to create a new generation
of gesture and body-based interfaces? A tough question to answer I
think and the answer, of course, cannot be that designers need to
become movement experts.

Max, thanks for mentioning Natalie Ebenreuter and her presentation.
I'm very interested in her research, but I was not able to watch the
Flash presentation - any ideas?

BTW, I'm obviously very interested in intersection of interaction
design and dance/movement. If you know of examples of applications,
products and research in this field, I'd be delighted to learn about

Doug Fox
doug at

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25 Jun 2008 - 10:59am

I saw a great presentation at Design and Emotion 2006 in Gothenburg
from Philips where they used Laban Analysis to help design the
quality of the movements of the indicator for a computerized home

The conference proceedings are available here:

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