Proxemic Interaction Design

How position, orientation and identity enable new forms of interaction

Proxemic interaction design explores how systems can use an understanding of people’s relative position, orientation and identity with one another and objects can be used to support rich interaction techniques. For example, we can design rooms that understand to turn on the lights when someone enters, and to turn them off when people leave. Similarly, we can design interactive displays to respond appropriately when someone is looking at them from a distance or up close. This is useful since we use proxemics to mediate our interactions with other people in everyday life – for instance, by moving physically closer to people we want to interact with, and by turning away from people we don’t. Proxemic interaction design explores how these basic cues can be used to improve interaction with computing technology.

In (Kudo, Tang, Fujita, Endo, Takashima, & Kitamura, 2021), we explored how VR headsets and reveal bystanders who may be potential interaction partners based on their proximity and orientation to the VR headset user. This is important when we consider that people wearing headsets are completely cut off from the world.

We can also use proxemics to mediate how we interact with robots (Mahadevan, Sousa, Tang, & Grossman, 2021). We have found that when robots can understand how people are using space, they can more straightforwardly anticipate how human collaborators will work. This smooths collaborative activity between humans and robots.


  1. Karthik Mahadevan, Mauricio Sousa, Anthony Tang, and Tovi Grossman. (2021). "Grip-that-there": An Investigation of Explicit and Implicit Task Allocation Techniques for Human-Robot Collaboration. In CHI 2021: Proceedings of the 2021 SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. (conference).
    Acceptance: 26.3% - 749/2844. Notes: Best Paper Nominee (top 5% of submissions).
  2. Yoshiki Kudo, Anthony Tang, Kazuyuki Fujita, Isamu Endo, Kazuki Takashima, and Yoshifumi Kitamura. (2021). Towards Balancing VR Immersion and Bystander Awareness. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction (PACMHCI) 5, ISS, Article 484. (journal).
    Notes: Best Paper award.