Multimodality has given rise to much theoretical and empirical work. The theoretical work is mainly concerned with the definition of the concepts of modality and multimodality, and with the development of "design spaces". These spaces are conceptual frameworks which provide a whole set of concepts making it possible to describe the modality and the possibilities of combination of these in comparison with the interaction user -system. For example, the models TYCOON (Martin & B roule, 1993) and CARE (Coutaz & Nigay, 1996) propose a whole set of concepts which describe various types of theoretical relationships of composition or "cooperation" between modalities: assignment, complementarity, equivalence, redundancy, competition, etc.
Empirical work has explored the effective (real) use of the modalities and the real contribution (i.e. effectiveness) of multimodality in situations of interaction with more or less simulated multimodal systems. From the point of view of the user, these studies made it possible to show how the users combine various modalities to interact with the systems and in which cases they use multimodality. Certain studies, such that of Oviatt, DeAngeli, & Kuhn (1997) for example, thus showed that multimodality is not always used (approximately 20% of the time of a session of interaction); the cases of use of this appear when the users describe in their commands some spacial information (for example: localisation, size , orientation or shape of an object).
In addition, several types of combination were observed (Guyomard, Le Meur, Poignonnec & Siroux 1995; Mignot & Carbonel, 1996; Oviatt et al.. 1997, etc.): combinations of complementarity (for example, the user supplements a verbal statement by pointing by tactile designation an object aimed on the screen) and of the combinations of redundancy (for example, the user indicates orally and explicitly an object and, at the same time, tactily indicates it on the interface). From the point of view of effectiveness, few studies have systematically approached this point and the evaluation criteria used are in the majority concerned with the saving of time which brings multimodal interfaces to be compared with monomodal interfaces
Although it produced many interesting results on the use of multimodality, this work approached only one limited whole of input modalities (mainly speech, pointing or writing). Moreover, few of these studies analysed the phenomena of appropriation of the multimodality through many sessions of interaction with the system. Lastly, the tasks suggested to the subjects were generally "new" for the users. A limit to this choice is that it leaves aside the study of the consequences of multimodality in the realisation of familiar tasks with more "classical" systems.
The general objective of the study presented here aims at contributing to design multimodal systems and the analysis of their use by approaching these various points, i.e.:
To apprehend multimodality in situations of interaction "meaning" for the users, i.e. contexts of tasks/activities which are familiar to them.
To study the processes of appropriation of the multimodality through several sessions of interaction.
To explore the use of "new" / "original" modalities in order to see empirically which place they take in man-machine interaction, the problems which they pose individually and in their relationship to other modalities.
In addition, by this study we aim at answering a certain number of precise questions related to the use of multimodality: how is it carried out and what guides the choice of multimodality? How are the choices and the changes of modalities of the user carried out? What is the role of the modality properties in this choice? Which are the criteria which lead a user to choose or give up a modality of interaction to the benefit of another? How do users combine the modalities?
From a practical point of view, our objective is to manage to release ergonomic recommendations as generic as possible for the design of multimodal systems.
We shall start from published work (Coutaz & Nigay, 1996) to consider a modality as a means of communication which implements a physical device and a language of interaction. We will consider multimodality from the user's point of view and it will be regarded as a means of production of one's intentions through various modalities (glance, gesture, speech, handling of the artefacts , etc). From this point of view, we regard multimodal systems as those which allow specialised uses (a modality exclusively dedicated to a command), equivalents (a modality can be used for all the commands), complementary (several modalities can be combined to carry out the same command).