The Effects of Low Latency on Pointing and Steering Tasks


Latency is detrimental to interactive systems, especially pseudo-physical systems that emulate real-world behaviour. It prevents users from making quick corrections to their movement, and causes their experience to deviate from their expectations. Latency is a result of the processing and transport delays inherent in current computer systems. As such, while a number of studies have hypothesized that any latency will have a degrading effect, few have been able to test this for latencies less than ∼50 ms. In this study we investigate the effects of latency on pointing and steering tasks. We design an apparatus with a latency lower than typical interactive systems, using it to perform interaction tasks based on Fitts’s law and the Steering law. We find evidence that latency begins to affect performance at ∼16 ms, and that the effect is non-linear. Further, we find latency does not affect the various components of an aiming motion equally. We propose a three stage characterisation of pointing movements with each stage affected independently by latency. We suggest that understanding how users execute movement is essential for studying latency at low levels, as high level metrics such as total movement time may be misleading.

Title: The Effects of Low Latency on Pointing and Steering Tasks

Authors: Friston, S., Karlstrom, P., & Steed, A.

Publication: Transactions on Visualisation and Computer Graphics, 22(5):1605-1615 | full text (PDF)

Year: 2015

D.O.I: 10.1109/TVCG.2015.2446467