Icon-Augmented Notifications

Can Icons Outperform Text? Understanding the Role of Pictograms in OHMD Notifications

Abstract: Optical see-through head-mounted displays (OHMDs) can provide just-in-time digital assistance to users while they are engaged in ongoing tasks. However, given users’ limited attentional resources when multitasking, there is a need to concisely and accurately present information in OHMDs. Existing approaches for digital information presentation involve using either text or pictograms. While pictograms have enabled rapid recognition and easier use in warning messages and traffic signs, most studies using pictograms for digital notifications have exhibited unfavorable results. We thus conducted a series of four iterative studies to understand how we can support effective notification presentation on OHMDs during multitasking scenarios. We find that while icon-augmented notifications can outperform text-only notifications, their effectiveness depends on icon familiarity, encoding density, and environmental brightness. We reveal design implications when using icon-augmented notifications in OHMDs and present plausible reasons for the observed disparity in literature.


  • Nuwan Janaka
  • Shengdong Zhao
  • Shardul Sapkota