Hands‑free multi‑type character text entry in virtual reality

Tingjie Wan, Rongkai Shi, Wenge Xu, Yue Li, Katie Atkinson, Lingyun Yu, Hai Ning Liang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Multi-type characters, including uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers, are essential in text entry activities. Although multi-type characters are used in passwords, instant messages, and document composition, there has been limited exploration of multi-character text entry for virtual reality head-mounted displays (VR HMDs). Typically, multi-type character entry requires four kinds of keyboards between which users need to switch. In this research, we explore hands-free approaches for rapid multi-type character entry. Our work explores two efficient and usable hands-free approaches for character selection: eye blinks and dwell. To enable quick switching between keyboards, we leverage the usability and efficiency of continuous head motions in the form of cross-based activation. In a pilot study, we explored the usability and efficiency of four locations of the switch keys, the two hands-free selection mechanisms, and crossing-based switching. In the main experiment, we evaluated four user-inspired layouts designed according to the findings from the pilot study. Results show that both blinking and dwell can work well with crossing-based switching and could lead to a relatively fast text entry rate (5.64 words-per-minute (WPM) with blinking and 5.42 WPM with dwell) with low errors (lower than 3% not corrected error rate (NCER)) for complex 8-digit passwords with upper/lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers. For sentences derived from the Brown Corpus, participants can reach 8.48 WPM with blinking and 7.78 WPM with dwell. Overall, as a first exploration, our results show that it is usable and efficient to perform hands-free text entry in VR using either eye blinks or dwell for character selection and crossing for mode switching.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Number of pages19
JournalVirtual Reality
Issue number1
Early online date3 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Hands-free interaction
  • Keyboard layout
  • Mode switching
  • Multi-type character entry
  • Text entry
  • User study
  • Virtual reality


Dive into the research topics of 'Hands‑free multi‑type character text entry in virtual reality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this