The Sherman Theatre Creative Learning team invited us to stage some of the Somability and Somantics prototypes in the foyer to coincide with Easter holiday events for children and the Inclusive Theatre Group. The prototypes needed no introduction as the groups were able to join in freely and explore independently. The only problem was the light, streaming in through the large windows on possibly the sunniest day of the year so far.
The Michael Sobell Centre, provided the venue for our first Somability sharing session, choreographed beautifully by dance coordinators from the Artis Community True Colours group, Zoe Martin and Linzi Robinson. When I arrived, the computer and Kinect were all set up, and the performers from the Gadlys Learning Curve were in rehearsal. Elegant sequences of expressive dance led to sustained concentration and experimentation with Somability, initially in Flow and Effects mode. For some service users, Balance in Silhouette mode proved compelling as they were able to easily detect their own bodies represented by the simple graphics. Ideas flowed for the next stage of development, both in terms of the design and the choreography. Importantly for this project, there was a strong sense of inclusion, and the commitment to involve more service users within Gadlys and other RCT Centres.
Following a very successful paper prototyping workshop at the Gadlys Learning Curve last November, the Cariad Interactive team spent two days last week trying early technology prototypes. Learning Curve support staff, led by Kath Ritchie, together with Angharad Lee from the Sherman Inclusive Theatre group and Zoe Martin from Artis Community, contributed ideas based on four broad themes, inspired by Laban’s movement analysis. Weight, space, time and togetherness were explored in the context of how service users may be able to extend their range of movement and expressive communication within the community centre setting.
So last week we put the ideas to the test, setting up the prototypes on the new Novatec laptops, and using Kinect as a motion capture input device. During the first session, at Gadlys, all the service users had a chance to try out Somability in the main room. Everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun and the range of movements were dynamic and exaggerated. As the goal of the project is to “make movement irresistible” we were all delighted at the level of engagement and peer interaction.
After some overnight modifications to the interface, the action continued for a second day, using a nearby hall which provided significantly more space. This was especially helpful when we had three wheelchair users, other peers and carers all interacting together. Leah McLaughlin, CARIAD, did an amazing job at capturing the sessions, which were reviewed by a small focus group, together with the carers, Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Joel and Marek are now moving forward with our prototypes, adding new modes for graphically interpreting body shape, mirroring and cause and effect; Pete is busy making proposals for the interface aesthetics.