Category Archives: Blog

Movementis: Brain, Body, Cognition. Oxford, July 2017


As well as Dancing in Data, Wendy presented a paper entitled: “Somability: movement, independence and social engagement for adults with complex needs”, which reported on the design process and early findings on the Somability project. Even though we created the software back in 2014, there is still a need for playful, responsive interfaces that generate creative agency. This work is now feeding into our new research and collaborations with SEN teachers seeking opportunities to enhance the learning experiences of young people with PMLD within the WAG Digital Competence Framework.

Dancing in data: Representation, repetition and recreation

Lise and Wendy presented their paper “Dancing in data: Representation, repetition and recreation” and the inaugural Movementis Conference at the Oxford University Examination Rooms this week. Although the conference had a scientific bias, the paper received very positive feedback from those who appreciated the need for a “human” approach to movement research

Conceptualising Kinesthesia – Making Movement Palpable

Wendy and Lise Hansen presented a paper entitled Conceptualising Kinesthesia – Making Movement Palpable at the European Academy of Design conference in Rome The motivation for the paper, and a new network of collaborators is to reconnect with the sensuous, experiential nature of movement, to visualize data in a move away from the conceptual and concrete towards a more subjective, expressive medium. Rather than perceiving data as remote and dispassionate, we are interested in addressing a gap in the research that considers movement as autotelic, flowing in response to a heightened bodily and kinesthetic awareness. You can read our paper Conceptualising Kinesthesia here.

Original ReacTickles revisited

In response to a lot of interest recently in the original ReacTickles, Joel and I have been working on re-creating them for the web, so they will run from your browser, rather than having to load and install a CD.

In July I gave a talk for in London at the ESRC Shaping Autism Research seminar, which focused on “Doing research well: Building a participatory framework for autism research”. I showed some early videos of ReacTickles in the presentation, and was approached by Dr.Ginny Russell, to ask whether ReacTickles could be included in the Exploring Diagnosis project. I also presented ReacTickles at my inaugural professorial lecture “Leave Out Everything Except the Magic which reminded me of how important the research that led to ReacTickles was for understanding the role of technology in inclusion.

Thanks to the Exploring Diagnosis project for helping to fund the new ReacTickles work. We were delighted that a number of our software applications have been used in the film workshops, we are now experimenting to make all our applications available and free to use on the web.

Here are our first new ReacTickles 3, ReacTickles for web, there are more on the way. Joel has also released the code, describing the bugs and fixes in detail.

Bouncing Circles, use your keyboard to explore speed, position and pressure

Springy Circles, use your mouse to explore elasticity

Keyboard Worm, use your keyboard to explore velocity.

Exploring Diagnosis, Exeter University

The team at Egenis, Exeter University have been working with ReacTickles Magic and Somantics as part of their project, Exploring Diagnosis. Funded through the Wellcome Trust, the project team have been running animation workshops with adults on the autism spectrum and film production company Calling the Shots. Most exciting has been the interest in the original ReacTickles, and as a result Joel has been busy creating some fantastic web based ReacTickles, which we will be releasing very soon.

Fun Palaces: Positively Ponty


We made some lovely new discoveries for Somantics when we participated in the Fun Palaces weekend, organised by artist Terry Chinn. Using a light sabre as an input device generated some gorgeous, distinctive patterns with Kaleidoscope, which contrasted with the more subdued mix of human body patterns.

Terry set up a large sheet as a screen for shadow puppets. When the kinect camera picked up the movement of the puppets with Sparkles a magical effect was created around the puppets as they moved, adding an extra layer of drama to the puppet theatre. This is the essence of Fun Palaces, here is their manifesto:



Sherman Inc explores Somability

We had great fun at the Inc summer workshop this week. Following a series of drama games that focused on movement based semiotics we set up the latest version of Somability in the large drama studio. We mainly used Flow, trying it out in each of the different display modes: Mirror, Skeleton, Silhouette and Invisible. Surprisingly, although the Mirror mode was great for initially grabbing attention, Invisible provided the most dynamic range of movements as the performers intentionally sought to extend the effects through proximity, speed and flow.

Somatopia at CHI 2016, #chi4good

This is our first CHI conference, and taking part in the Workshops has been a great introduction to a packed schedule of events. In small groups we presented Method Stories for Involving People with Impairments in Design, which opened up discussions revealing the lack of inclusivity in the way we publish and present our work. The debate was lively and supportive, the Somatopia project was very well received, and it was particularly rewarding to hear other people’s genuine desire to promote inclusivity within their work. Great to at last meet Professor David Brown from Nottingham University, and to find synergies in both our approaches. Also really good to meet up with friends from the ECHOES project. Chris Frauenberger’s talk “Designing Smart Objects with Autistic Children: Four Design Exposès“, demonstrated that there some really excellent design principles emerging in autism research.

Sound Clips is on the iOS App Store


“Sound Clips is designed to augment story time with sounds! Travel to the darkest jungle or the deepest reaches of space at just the touch of a button! Sound clips creates the sound, you imagination does the rest!”

Our latest application, Sound Clips has just launched in the iOS App Store. Designed in collaboration with Hellicar&Lewis and the Discover Story Centre, the app allows for the sequencing of sound effects using the iPad itself as well as triggering via Estimote Stickers.

NAS Autism and Technology

This one-day conference brought a diverse range of speakers and delegates together to share research, practical experiences and ideas for technological innovation. Jamie and Lion set the tone for understanding the impact of technology in day-to-day living – for communication, work and leisure.

Our talk offered a journey through our experiences of developing software, focusing on Attention, Perception, Feedback, Repetition and Flow. We used this opportunity to launch the first release of Somatopia, which aims to bridge the gap between genuine innovation and end users who are disenfranchised through perceptions of disability and lack of resources (human and technological).

We hope that by making the software, code and instructions for designing Somatopia apps available to download, Somatopia will appeal to enthusiasts with expert knowledge, and those who enjoy making and tinkering with technology. See more on the Somatopia page.

Cariad Down Under


Wendy has been in Melbourne, Australia during November, sharing both the Somatopia and Somability projects with Scope Victoria, and presenting at the prestigious 50th Anniversary ASID conference. Both events have led to connecting and sharing ideas with some fantastic people, especially excited to meet up with Sensorium Theatre, Perth, and Back to Back Theatre in Melbourne. There is a link to the presentation ASID slides, with the images extracted.

Final Noah’s Ark Workshop at artsdepot


Last Tuesday we completed the last of three workshops with young people from the Noah’s Ark children’s hospice as well as their siblings and parents. Once again we were hosted by the amazing team at artsdepot.


As before, we co-designed interactive “happiness machines” all day – as well as demonstrating the freshly updated Somantics iOS app to Mums and Dads and younger visitors.


As well as helping connect the always fantastic Touch Board from Bare Conductive to paintings, Joel helped out recording sounds and music for each of the freshly created artworks.


Noah’s Ark at artsdepot


We had a great time co-designing interactive artworks with young people from the Noah’s Ark children’s hospice at artsdepot. Using the fabulously accessible Touch Board from Bare Conductive. The participants collaborated in teams to bring their favourite things to life by adding their own sounds to drawings. The culmination of the workshop was a set of paper-prototype “happiness machines” that included tickling, laughter, jokes, music and other references to the things in life that make us happy.

Somatopia lab


First ever Cariad Interactive Somatopia Lab in Cardiff FabLab. Four teachers, two pupils and a technical demonstrator joined us for a rich mix of acting, moving, paper prototyping and storyboarding based on five Somatopia themes. Everyone set up their own Raspberry Pi, Pi camera and microphone and learnt how to use openframeworks to create a range of interactions triggered by sound and motion. The best part was getting to work up some of the ideas that emerged for learning some basic code.

Somantics iPad Apps


Lots of people have been emailing us to say the camera feature on Somantics for iPad has stopped working. The problem is with the IoS 8 upgrade. At the moment Somantics is not available on IoS 8, although we are working on this. The desktop version still works perfectly. Bear with us, we will have this resolved as soon as we can.

Somability ready for release


After many months of design and development with our friends at Rhondda Cynon Taf, Somability version one is now free for you to download. At this stage we are offering a Windows version which needs a Kinect camera.

To download the Somability for Windows click here and to download the Installation and Usage Instructions right click here and choose “Save As”.

Clive : Dance : Perform : Chill Out


The our hard work in rehearsals and development paid off and everyone rose to the occasion. Each of the sequences – Call and response, Flow, Mirror and Space – enabled the performers to reach new levels of dynamic interaction. The Raspberry Pi delivered, thanks to James and we are now preparing to use the code with some new partners in SEN schools in South Wales. We will be back at Arts Depot on 25th and 26th April, working on a new project with Noah’s Ark children’s hospice.

Clive workshop one


Last Sunday we headed off to Arts Depot in Finchley for the first of our Clive workshops. We began our session with a percussive warm-up and revisited some of our favourite ReacTickles Magic Apps, Expand and Orbit. Everyone enjoyed seeing the effects of their actions, adding lovely flowing movements, using Somantics Sparkles, Kaleidoscope, and Silhouette, simultaneously exploring speed, direction and body parts. Everyone responded positively to our new Somatopia concepts for Raspberry Pi. The group contributed some great ideas for the themes we are proposing: Cause and Effect, Flow and Space. Already, there is excitement for the performance on the 21st Feb.

Arts Depot/Clive

Beginning on 18th January, we are running workshops with Arts Depot. The workshops will be a pilot for developing our resources for Somatopia – and a test bed for inclusion by inviting adults with LDs to take part in weekly activities that culminate in them choreographing and presenting a performance using interactive digital artworks.

Picademy Wales

pi day one

Last week I took part in the first Picademy Wales, thanks to Raspberry Pi, who are funding our new project Somatopia.

It was in at the deep end for me as I haven’t touched any real programming since my experiments with Lingo! The Pi team were great, we covered so much ground in two days, but the best thing was getting to grips with the Pi Camera. Thanks to Carrie Ann for the book “Adventures in Raspberry Pi“. This book is great for getting started.

More on Somatopia in the next few months but the aim is use the inherent accessibility of RaspberryPi to teach people how to co-create interactive artworks.

We will start by migrating some of the most popular aspects of ReacTickles, Somantics, Somability and Somatopia over the RaspberryPi, and then experiment with developing some simple coding modules to allow others to generate their own experimental artworks.

Most importantly we will create resources that help people to visualise their ideas. The methods we will demonstrate are based on human centred, participatory design, encouraging novice developers to imagine and test without having to go any where near a line of code. To quote Pete, “Technology is not an idea”.

Somability celebration Wales Millennium Centre


A celebratory event was held on 11th November in the Wales Millennium Centre. The event constituted a brief introduction to the project, followed by a dance performance and “open mic”, where members of the audience could join in. The public stage was adapted for wheelchair users and guests from academia, the arts, service provision, Welsh Assembly Government, RCT local authority, and the media. The performers from the Gadlys Centre, together with Zoe from Artis Community, were very relaxed and moved with ease. The more formal, choreographed, introductory dance was followed by approximately half an hour of service user led pieces, some individual and some collaborative. Everyone enjoyed themselves, so much so that the WMC has invited us back to do an even bigger performance. Congratulations everyone!

Vision 21 Summer School


The Sherman Theatre hosted the first Vision 21 drama and dance summer school last week. Cariad joined Morgan Thomas and Tamsin Griffiths in co-creating a moving performance that incorporated drawing, acting, puppetry and dance. We revisited Somantics as a method of engaging the group, working at times with individuals but, wherever appropriate, using the interface to tease out some of the narratives emerging though the different activities. We also modified some of the early Somability prototypes as a backdrop for actors as they performed their scenes. Everyone had a lot of fun; by the end of the week the group were confident in improvising and sharing their creations, openly inviting each other to join in. There was a real buzz of excitement for the showback

RCT Skills for Independence, Gadlys, True Colours Sharing

michel sobel 18:7

On Friday we celebrated the end of a truly wonderful term of dance and improvised interaction with Somability. The True Colours Gadlys group, gracefully performed work in progress under the guidance of Zoe and Linzi. All the friends and family in the audience were openly moved. This led the way to showcase the unique interactions and collaborations that Somability has enabled, as each service user independently used the technology without instruction.

Inclusive Theatre Showback

Monday evening the Sherman Theatre opened its doors to friends and family for our end of term Showback. The Superhero narrative was written and performed by the members of the Inclusive Theatre group, expertly steered by Morgan, Jay and Cheryl. Somability provided the backdrop for the flying scenes, the super hero machine and the finale, as good and evil are united in friendship.
Watch this space for “Stuck in the Mud“, our next inclusive theatre production in August.

Digital Innovation Week Wales

Compelling Somability Dance performance from Rhonnda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence and Artis Community. True improvisation, demonstrating the joy of visceral engagement emerging through actions rather than plans. Kath’s narrative put the experience into context as she described how the project has been transformative for service users, providing the key to new friendship and independence.

“Awareness of our own rhythms, our movement style, our repertoire and range, is crucial.”
Cultural Patterning of Movement and Meaning: Knox, C. 1992, p172.

Check out Digital Innovation Week Wales


Digital Innovation Week Wales, 8th July

Our presentation at DIWW, “Dancing with [co] Design”, will focus on the potential of camera and projection technologies to extend the typical, sometimes limited, range of movements among people with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) in their day service settings. We will describe our co-creation methods for Somability, and how we are now visualising and generating graphical representations of body movement in real time.

The event takes place at the iconic Wales Millennium Centre, Weston Studio. To enrich the experience of digital innovation, we have invited our partners in Somability to offer a preview of work in progress. This short performance with the True Colours dance group, aims to reveal the poignancy and sensitivity of the relationship between carers and service users with profound disabilities, and to invite the audience to reflect on their own experience of participation.

Dancing with [co] Design will be introduced by Marek and Wendy. The Somability sequence will be performed by True Colours, co-ordinated by Zoe Martin and Linzi Robinson from Artis Community with service users from Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence.

RE.WORK The Future of Education

Cariad Interactive presented work in progress at RE.WORK as part of London Technology Week. The question for participants was “how will emerging technologies and innovation impact the future of education?”. Our presentation began with a quote from Fals Borda, (1995) “do not monopolise your knowledge nor impose arrogantly your techniques, but respect and combine your skills with the knowledge of the researched or grassroots communities, taking them as full partners and co-researchers” to explain our approach toward community co-creation. Ending with a quote from Brenda Laurel (2003) which nicely captures our methods, including paper prototyping “…to design objects and experiences that enable people to perform themselves somewhat differently in those same situations-with greater pleasure, ease and agency”.

Sherman Theatre open foyer event

Somability at the Sherman Theatre
Sherman Theatre foyer fun

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.

Artis Community “Sharing” Somability

flo and C balance sil ms

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.

Somability prototypes in action

at gadlys

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.

Arts Council of Wales Paper Prototyping Workshop

Marek and I delivered a novel paper prototyping workshop together at the Arts Council of Wales Annual Conference. This technique, pioneered by Joel and Pete, challenged delegates  to design simple prototypes for a “creative future” smile detector application. There were 50 delegates, divided into 10 teams, with only 45 minutes to create a paper prototype for their concepts. All the teams rose to the occasion, and managed to explain their ideas in less than a minute, with smile powered cars, air travel (air smiles!) and charity collections, raising smiles all around.



We are thrilled to announce that our project, Somability, which is being hosted with Cardiff School of Art and Design and co-design partners, Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence with Artis Community, has been awarded funding through the Rayne Foundation. The ideas for Somability came about following a design Lab that we ran with  adults with learning difficulties, which involved them taking part in stimulating, creative, movement activities in their day care settings.  Our experiences from the lab inspired us to try to find ways to offer these communities access to recreational activities that use the same affordable technologies as the wider population, with musicality and rhythmic, dynamic movement as the primary mode of expression. We are grateful to Tim Leroy at Novatec for donating laptops and Andrew Spooner at Microsoft for donating Kinect cameras.

Gesture-based paper prototyping

gesture based paper prototyping

The iconic Senedd building in Cardiff provided the setting for a Cariad Interactive paper prototyping workshop with the Gesture-based Professional Learning Community (PLC). Neil Mendoza took on the tricky programming task, while Pete encouraged participants to quickly communicate ideas on paper. The PLC added some interesting ingredients and challenges for the interaction designers, as they playfully explored how rhythm could enrich the learning environment of young people with severe learning difficulties. The winning pitch resonated inclusivity, showing that an inclusive design is something that can excite all of us.

Leonard Cheshire

Thanks to the enthusiasm of Alex Jones, we set up Somantics on the iPad and desktop with a projector at the Danybryn Leonard Cheshire home.  Somantics Sparkles worked well with wheelchairs moving closer and further away, and even limited facial actions brought the interface to life. We created some very dynamic sweeping movements using lightweight batons and Windmills, although Kaleidoscope was definitely the favourite, triggering lots of laughter and peer to peer encouragement.

Enfys ideation

This ideation phase of Enfys has focused gaining vital inspiration for interaction design, to ensure that it is developmentally appropriate and usable in the playgroup setting. The first visits to the Cylch Meithrin Playgroups provided vital contextual information and enabled us to get to know the playgroup leaders and peer-to-peer dynamic. An extensive literature review alerted us to key factors that must be considered when designing for children, regardless of technology. In our early sketches we have been attentive to the role of adults in scaffolding the child’s learning, the importance of structure and collaboration, the use of objects and materials, the sensory environment, and the benefits of rhythmic actions in language development.

Listening Aloud

Cariad Interactive are delighted to be collaborating with MUSE and musician, Doug Bott on the Listening Aloud project, funded by Youth Music and Cardiff Metropolitan University. Throughout the Listening Aloud we are conducting far reaching research and development into making music accessible for those who experience additional barriers to participation. As with our other projects, young people are at the heart of every stage of design. Early ideation has begun at Three Ways School, Bath and already the input from staff and children has inspired us to put aside assumptions and to focus on music making as a meaningful feature of our everyday experiences!