Our projects have many different outputs, however, they share similarities in innovating new technology systems that synthesise theory and applied research across the disciplines of the arts, science and technology. Each project has a distinctly playful application, and takes a critical design approach to discovering possibilities rather that solving problems.
ReacTickles Magic, funded by the Rayne Foundation and Cardiff Metropolitan University Research and Enterprise Innovation fund, is one of our most successful and established projects. This evolutionary project has grown in harmony with developments in sensor-based interaction and open source programming. The core ethos of ReacTickles Magic is to provide users with a continuous positive feedback loop, so that they easily gain a sense of control and mastery.
The software is designed to mirror bodily input through touch, sound and motion. The simple iconic interface encourages a variety of gestural and manipulative inputs, for example repetition, rhythm and pressure, shaking, pressing, tapping, smoothing, dragging, circling. With the addition of sound, an infinite variety of vocalisations can make a direct impression on the graphical output. http://www.reactickles.org/
Somantics was awarded proof of concept funding through the Technology Strategy Board, Jisc/TechDis Competition "Making Waves" (http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/techdis/news/detail/2011/SBRI_result). The project evolved through a close co-design partnership with CARIAD, software artists, Joel Gethin Lewis, Pete Hellicar, Marek Bareza, Ashgrove Special School and Beechwood College.
Somantics uses motion sensing and projection technology to recognise and convert gesture into visceral, real-world digital performances. The aim of the work has to produce a suite of 'tools for expression' that to discover, capture and amplify the communication interests of young people with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) and other related communication difficulties.
In order to support this aim it has been essential that Somantics is user-led, requiring little, if any, intervention from a practitioner or carer. Self- awareness, confidence and independence is a pre- requisite for a positive learning experience, often neglected in task based systems that focus on skill. The idea built on published research that investigated the benefits to learning of user-led action rather than instruction-led cognition.
In addition to the social goals of the project, as a design team we were motivated to create something that was technologically innovative, affordable, accessible, discreet, intuitive, mobile, responsive, controllable and easy to implement within existing curriculum frameworks and interventions. http://www.somantics.org/
The aim of Somability is to "make movement irresistible". The project positions human computer interaction as a personally distinctive performing arts medium. We have adopted consumer sensor technologies enabling users to interact together in under-resourced settings such as community centres. Our target group has been adults with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties.
We have undertaken a number of inclusive design Labs that involve communities in The South Wales Valleys and have partnered with staff and service users from young people and older adults with both motor and learning difficulties. Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence. These stakeholders have provided the context and primary setting for a series of novel ‘research in the wild’ activities.
This project builds on findings from Somantics and uses mirroring as a mediating tool to support spatial perception, motor control, and rhythm. Cariad Interactive partners Joel Gethin Lewis, Marek Bereza and Pete Hellicar, have been creating concept prototypes with Openframeworks code libraries.
This project is exploring the feasibility of flexible floor spaces as a means of interacting with people. The concept is evolving on the idea of "taking steps toward independent learning". The initial concepts enable people to explore through cause and effect, flow and to develop an awareness of the relationship between others and ourselves. The project is being co-designed with occupational therapy, teaching and support staff at Ashgrove Special School, South Wales.
Hidden Connections, Shared Environments and Environmental Flows
Cathy is involved in a series of projects that investigate creativity, its impact on wellbeing and how technology supports creative practice. She is currently co-investigator on two AHRC funded projects: 'Hidden Connections, Shared Environments and Environmental Flows - how local walking interventions induce community positivity in urban locations' in conjunction with Birmingham City University and 'Permission to play: taking play seriously; making sport playful' which is an interdisciplinary project with University of Strathclyde, Glasgow University and University of Liverpool.
Cathy is also working on research with the WIP2C group http://wip2c.org// which is a Welsh Assembly Government funded project which aims to explore developments and applications arising from the latest scientific research in display technologies. She is also working on collaborative international research looking at creativity, craft and aging with two Australian universities: University of Newcastle NSW and the National Institute of Experimental Arts, University of New South Wales, Australia.
This ESRC funded project is a "follow-on" collaboration with Birmingham University, Southampton University and London Knowledge Lab. The project builds on a number of technology prototypes showcased at the ESRC Festival of Social Science. Outputs of the SHAPE project will be a series of digital stories created with school staff and children, as well as other resources, made available throughout the project website.