Proxemic Interaction
designing for a proximity and orientation-aware environment

In the everyday world, much of what we do is dictated by how we interpret spatial relationships. This is called proxemics. What is surprising is how little spatial relationships are used in interaction design, i.e., in terms of mediating people’s interactions with surrounding digital devices such as digital surfaces, mobile phones, and computers. Our interest is in proxemic interaction, which imagines a world of devices that has fine-grained knowledge of nearby people and other devices – how they move into range, their precise distance, and even their orientation – and how such knowledge can be exploited to design interaction techniques. In particular, we show how we used proxemic information to regulate implicit and explicit interaction techniques. We also show how proxemic interactions can be triggered by continuous movement, or by movement in and out of discrete proxemic regions. We illustrate these concepts with the design of an interactive vertical display surface that recognizes the proximity of surrounding people, digital devices, and non-digital artefacts – all in relation to the surface but also the surrounding environment. Our example application is an interactive media player that implicitly reacts to the approach and orientation of people and their personal devices, and that tailors explicit interaction methods to fit.


Nicolai Marquardt (PhD)
Till Ballendat (Visiting student)
Robert Diaz-Marino
Saul Greenberg (Supervisor)

Key Publications

Greenberg, S., Marquardt, N., Ballendat, T., Diaz-Marino, R. and Wang, M. (2011)
Proxemic Interactions: The New Ubicomp?. ACM Interactions, 18(1):42-50. ACM, January-February. Invited cover story.
Hyperlink PDF Paper
Ballendat, T., Marquardt, N. and Greenberg, S. (2010)
Proxemic Interaction: Designing for a Proximity and Orientation-Aware Environment. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces - ACM ITS'2010. (Saarbruecken, Germany), ACM Press, pages 121-130, November 7-10. Best Paper Award. Later, received (in 2019) the 10-Year Impact Award from ACM ISS for its substantial and long-lasting impact on the ITS/ISS and broader HCI communities. Earlier version as Report 2010-963-11 (paper) and Report 2010-963-12 (video).
PDF Paper Video File

Other Publications

Marquardt, N. (2011)
Proxemic Interactions in Ubiquitous Computing Ecologies. In ACM Proc. CHI Extended Abstracts: ACM CHI Doctoral Symposium. (Vancouver, BC, Canada), ACM, 4 pages + poster, May 7-12.
PDF Paper
Ballendat, T. (2011)
Visualization of and Interaction with Digital Devices around Large Surfaces as a Function of Proximity. Master's thesis, Dept Institut fur Informatik, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen, Munich, Germany, February. Supervisors: Nicolai Marquardt and Saul Greenberg, Professor in charge: Andreas Butz.
PDF Paper