A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

Various personal interests and public info, gesture, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

My first papre was publshed

Oh my god.

I just read the abstract of the first journal paper I have ever published (not counting my writings for the University’s weekly, the Delta). It is horrible writing! After a long and tedious process of writing, revising, co-editing, and revising some more it is unreadable!

The present and past tense are alternated seemingly at random. Bizarre sentences arose from disputes and compromises. Strange ambiguities must leave even the most forgiving reader puzzled and irritated. I promise here and now to do a better job next time.

Well, leaving the abstract aside, the paper contains the results of my first experiments, which are not entirely uninteresting I think, regarding the perception of signs and fidgeting. It is called ‘When and how well do people see the onset of gestures’.

To explain what it is about let me give you a little task. Next time when you are away from your computer and among the people, look for two or three people grouped together, talking or otherwise. Preferably they are at enough distance so as not to be overheard (or take offense at your snooping). Now, watch their movements, their hands. And as soon as you see a gesture you knock on something.

If you do this you will probably experience three things. First, it is an easy task. Second, you will probably ignore the fidgeting. Third, if you ask a friend to join your little game of gesture-spotting (as I have done on many occasions), he will probably knock in response to the same movements that you do.

Now, the ability to spot gestures, and ignore fidgeting, may seem trivial to you, but imagine you were a robot. Do you think computer vision experts would have been able to program you with this ability? At the moment, they don’t even have a clue how to solve this puzzle. You would be forced to analyze any movement as ‘possibly a gesture I might have to respond to’. And perhaps you would wish you had something to filter out the 50% ‘just fidgeting’ (estimate by intuition) to save you time that you need to keep from bumping into lantern posts and such.


Jelgerhuis and the Eloquence of the Body


Lleyton Hewitt Trademark Gesture Challenged


  1. Paul

    Nice! I very much like the idea and the paper altogether.
    Would be interesting to find out what you and your knocking friend do when you spot a gesture-to-be that is abandonded and retracted in the course of the preparatoy movement. Would you knock? Would you first knock and then regret it?

    Have you ever videotaped a knocking session? What is intriguing to me is the idea that the knocks can be analysed just like gestures in themselves, with rest position, preparatory movement and audible stroke.

  2. Hello Paul, most of the time, especially when the game is competitive (the one who knocks first, wins) I will knock and regret it. This happened a few times in our experiment.
    Never videotaped it.
    Analyzing a knock as a gesture? An ┬┤audible stroke┬┤?? That is just silly. It is essentially a practical action. You knock on something to make a sound. In this case that is used to signal something. But the sound carries the signal that makes the action a semiotic one, not the visible action. It is a ‘gesture-complex’ in my definition.
    See: http://jeroenarendsen.nl/2008/12/the-gruesome-semi-gestures-of-politics/
    Or: http://jeroenarendsen.nl/2007/10/gesture-definitions/

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