There is increasing evidence that hand gestures and speech synchronize their activity on multiple dimensions and timescales. For example, gesture’s kinematic peaks (e.g., maximum speed) are coupled with prosodic markers in speech. Such coupling operates on very short timescales at the level of syllables (200 ms), and therefore requires high-resolution measurement of gesture kinematics and speech acoustics. High-resolution speech analysis is common for gesture studies, given that field’s classic ties with (psycho)linguistics. However, the field has lagged behind in the objective study of gesture kinematics (e.g., as compared to research on instrumental action). Often kinematic peaks in gesture are measured by eye, where a “moment of maximum effort” is determined by several raters. In the present article, we provide a tutorial on more efficient methods to quantify the temporal properties of gesture kinematics, in which we focus on common challenges and possible solutions that come with the complexities of studying multimodal language. We further introduce and compare, using an actual gesture dataset (392 gesture events), the performance of two video-based motion-tracking methods (deep learning vs. pixel change) against a high-performance wired motion-tracking system (Polhemus Liberty). We show that the videography methods perform well in the temporal estimation of kinematic peaks, and thus provide a cheap alternative to expensive motion-tracking systems. We hope that the present article incites gesture researchers to embark on the widespread objective study of gesture kinematics and their relation to speech.

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Behavior Research Methods (Print)
Department of Psychology

Pouw, W., Trujillo, J.P. (James P.), & Dixon, J.A. (James A.). (2019). The quantification of gesture–speech synchrony: A tutorial and validation of multimodal data acquisition using device-based and video-based motion tracking. Behavior Research Methods (Print). doi:10.3758/s13428-019-01271-9