Somability is a free software application designed in collaboration with Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence adult disability day care service and Arts Community. Cariad Interactive, in partnership with the CARIAD Research group at Cardiff Metropolitan University, were very fortunate to be able to work directly with the day service to create beautiful prototypes that use Kinect to capture movement. The success of Somability is in the way in which it interprets movement as a series of graphically interesting artworks, recognising that each person is unique.

Thanks to support from Microsoft the current version of Somability is free to download for Windows 10 from the Windows Store. To run the Windows 10 version you will a Kinect v 2 connected to a Windows PC.

If you are running Windows 7 or 8, you will need Kinect v 1. To download Somability for Windows and KinectV1 click here. Detailed instructions about the camera, drivers and software installation can be found here, right click and choose “Save As”.

More about Somability
Somability builds on much of the research from our earlier work with Somantics. However, working in adult services set us new challenges and required adopting a different framework for understanding the significance of movement-based communication and aerobic activity in this context. We took inspiration from many diverse sources, for example graphical ideas paid homage to Myron Kruger’s 1969 Videoplace; ideas around flow, rhythm and space emerged from Rudolf Laban’s movement analysis (LMA) and the baseline for early evaluation was informed by the ASDAN framework for adult learning. Most importantly, working directly with the service, and iterating the design early and often, provided rich inspiration and direction for Somability.

Breakthroughs in understanding interaction occurred through the challenge to ensure that a wheelchair user with limited limb movement could create the same range of effects as a more mobile peer, and to enable someone with visual impairments to perceive themselves as an active agent in the interaction. Many of the “problems” became “possibilities” for interaction, particularly in recognising the role of human to human, rhythmic experiences.

A striking outcome of this process has been repositioning the relationship between carer and service user. We have observed people with the most profound disability triggering interaction, with carers side by side, responding rather than leading. As with other compelling artistic performances, the audience are also participants, commentating on, and mirroring, the actions of the performers.

Early evidence suggests that Somability has the potential to be truly inclusive, permitting parity within the interaction, whether a person has limited or full movement.

We are now seeking to develop Somability further. The day service, more then ever, needs to be supported. We believe that well-designed, user focused technologies can make a dramatic difference to the well being of people with disabilities and those who care for them. If you are reading this and would like to be involved, or to help fund the project, please contact us.