An intercultural study by Facit Digital and UX Fellows on spontaneous gesture behaviour in 18 countries


The new Samsung Galaxy S4 can do it, Smart TVs as well and the Xbox Kinect has been doing it for a long time now: gesture recognition.

Facit Digital, together with UX Fellows, conducted a worldwide study on cultural differences in the gesture-controlled operation of entertainment electronics. A total of 18 countries participated in the study.


Across the world, surprisingly similar spontaneous gestures were found in the basic functions such as volume adjustment or program selection. For more complex functions, however, significant differences depending on the country were found. The conclusion of the first study of this scope: Gesture-controlled operation is enthusiastically accepted around the world; for internationally marketed products, however, user tests at the national level are indispensable for acceptance.

Gesture-controlled operation in the open space enables users to interact with the devices in an even more natural way. Gaming consoles like the Xbox Kinect but also smart TVs and smartphones already use this technology today. The first step here is taken by pointing gestures, where a finger or the hand is used instead of a mouse. Semantic gestures, where the hand movement already suggests a discernible message, go one step further.

What is a harmless everyday gesture in one culture can be a dangerous insult in another. If television sets were able to understand semantic gestures, would they understand the users, regardless of what culture they belong to?