Multi-Modal Interfaces


In the realm of human factors the area of communication is very important. In order to have effective and efficient communication, information needs to be able to be conveyed by one person or object, and then received by another person or object (input and output).

As simple as this sounds, the receipt of information can hit a barrier, that being “data overload”. This can occur when all the information is being transmitted in just one ‘modality’ such as through voice (auditory) or visual mediums such as a display in a cockpit. In order to lessen the risk of data overload happening, the use of multi-modal interfaces will assist in the effective and efficient transfer of information.

An example of a device that uses multi-modal interfaces is the cellphone. A user can input information and receive outputs through three main modes:

  • Auditory (hearing a ringtone)
  • Tactile (physically pressing numbers on the keypad)
  • Visual (viewing the display)

Why Use Multi-Modal Interfaces

Along with preventing data overloading through using just one modality as described above, the following three reasons show the benefits of using multi-modal interfaces:

  • Ergonomic and increases usability for users; a user who has a certain disability such as being deaf can use a visual modality instead of an auditory output.
  • Allows for redundancy of systems; if one medium fails, the user will still get the information via the remaining modality.
  • Decreases the risk of errors being committed; a user can select the modality that is best to use for specific tasks, lessening the chance for making mistakes.

Application in Aviation

Multi-Modal Interfaces can be used, and are currently used at the heart of aviation; the cockpit. Pilots input information and receive outputs of information through:

  • Auditory (through talking to a co-pilot or talking with Air Traffic Control)
  • Tactile (physically switching a switch)
  • Visual (from looking at cockpit displays or out the window)

Multi-Modal Interfaces should continue to be used and developed further for the more efficient and effective input and output of information within all areas of aviation such as in the cockpit, air traffic control tower and even management offices.

1. Johnston, M. (2010). Multimodal interfaces. Retrieved September 22, 2010 from
2. Torshizi, F. A. (n.d.). Multimodal interfaces. Retrieved September 22, 2010 from
3. Wikipedia. (2010). Human factors. Retrieved September 22, 2010 from

Contributors to this page

Authors / Editors


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License