Designing multimodal interaction for configurable distributed systems is a challenge that originates from the early work of M. Weiser in 1991 described in the article "The Computer for the 21st Century".
Each of the aspects - multimodal interaction and configurable distribution - is being actively researched by different research communities. A number of projects also attempt to combine these aspects, with the goal of creating a flexible and usable system.
Multimodal interfaces described in this thesis are: graphical user interfaces (GUI), tangible user interfaces (TUI), gesture-based interaction, and speech recognition. Real-time response and feedback are important issues for the interaction with a system. Configurable and tailorable applications allow users to adapt the system to their needs, hence increasing performance and improving the ability to cope with different types of users (novice, beginner, intermediate and expert users), or different hardware. Distribution of applications allows gains in processing speed as well as support of multiple users, interacting with each other in real-time and across time and space boundaries.
Interaction design patterns have been developed that ensure a proper design of the interfaces, especially important when developing applications that support ubiquitous interfaces. Rules that enforce these patterns, can be used by developers to verify the usability of the interfaces created. This thesis is based on the experience of working on two different systems: the Atelier project and the Studierstube framework. Several applications of both systems are discussed from a technical and interaction design view. Based on these applications and on the experience gained during the work on the two systems some design patterns are described.
These design patterns are often not dealt with by developers, but are important for creating a usable system that supports users working with multimodal, configurable, and distributed applications.