17 Jul 2007
By Rachel Kenworthy


Over 80 London-based knowledge transfer professionals gathered on July 10 for an informal evening of networking and entertainment at KnowledgeLondon’s Summer Party.

Hosted on a rare sunny evening by the University of Westminster, the event boasted of the outstanding projects and ideas which are continuing to emerge from London’s knowledge base.

Felicity Harvest, Executive Director of the Arts Council England, South East, opened the occasion with a few words which emphasized the importance of creative projects conceived and developed in London’s Higher Education institutions to the UK economy.

“The Arts Council has recently published a strategy which recognises that Knowledge Transfer is one of the main areas of growth available and has the potential to be a major point of connection between the higher education sector and the arts and cultural sectors,” she said. “There are many excellent examples of collaborations in design, fashion, media and technology which are beginning to have an impact not only on the students but also on the industries that employ them.”

The audience was captivated by a showcase from the SMARTLab Digital Institute, which aims to find innovative solutions to community issues by employing new, creative technology. Professor Lizbeth Goodman, SMARTLab’s Founder and Director, presented an incredible eye-scanning technology which has allowed a man with severe cerebral palsy to write and play music using only his eyes. After performing a delicate balancing-act dance with Bobby Byrne, her colleague and disabled dancer, Goodman explained the importance of enabling people with disabilities to participate in creative activities. “We’re all dancing on the inside,” she said. “It’s important that every person, regardless of ability, is able to express themselves.”

Other exhibits included Communication-Wear, a jacket with interwoven mobile technology, which allows expressive messages to be conveyed using implanted electronic textile sensors, developed by Central Saint Martins; a novel flexible sheet structure that can be applied to limb and neck fractures by Brunel’s Wolfson Centre; and UCL’s Boomcube, which, according to Chief Engineer, Bradford Backus, is the world’s best portable iPod speaker system. Newham College of Further Education was also on hand to parade intricately designed dresses and demonstrate the increasing benefit of furthering knowledge transfer links between Further Education Institutions and industry.

The evening was well received by all who attended. Backus, who had been unsure of what he might gain from a networking event, admitted that he was very pleasantly surprised. “It was a well-run event and I made contacts which might be very useful to us.” Michelle Flinn, from the Roehampton School of Arts, said “the whole event was very useful and a great opportunity to network.”

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11-13 July: EVA event London with SMARTlab contributors and evening screenings:
http://www.eva-conferences.com/eva_london/2007/

Monday 9th July

am:Research Workshop
WORKSHOP 1
Organiser: Kate Devlin

pm: European Research Workshop
WORKSHOP 2
3D Models for Cultural Heritage Applications
Organiser: Francesco Spadoni
Tuesday 10th July

am: Museums Workshop
WORKSHOP 3
Planning social media for museums
Organiser: Dr Angelina Russo

pm: Association of Heritage and Fine Art Photographers Workshop
WORKSHOP 4
Ethical considerations for the digital photography of
cultural heritage objects
Organiser: James Stephenson

pm: European Digital Library Workshop
WORKSHOP 5
Organiser: David Dawson

Evening: Computer Arts Society Meeting
Birkbeck College
Organiser: Nick Lambert
Wednesday 11th July

CONFERENCE DAY 1

am: The technological landscape: theory and ideas

pm: Visualisation: the museum & gallery context

pm: JISC Workshop
WORKSHOP 6
ICT: New directions in e-Science & the Arts
Organisers: Ann Borda, Stuart Dunn

Tour of the Stanley Kubrick Archive
Thursday 12th July

CONFERENCE DAY 2

am: Digital arts & technologies

pm: Digital arts & technologies

pm: Panel Session: Archiving of Digital Artefacts

Visualisation Session

Conference Reception and Dinner
Friday 13th July

CONFERENCE DAY 3

am: Imaging in 2D and 3D

pm: Imaging in 2D and 3D: EC projects

Panel session and summing up

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interfaces_performance-17

Music from the eyes – world premiere from SMARTlab at UEL

A unique new performance using innovative digital media technology has been staged by researchers at the SMARTlab Digital Media Institute at the University of East London (UEL).

The InterFACES research team, led by Professor Lizbeth Goodman and Dr Mick Donegan at UEL’s SMARTlab Digital Media Institute, has developed a new creative technology application which allows disabled people to express themselves by writing and playing music with their eyes.

Dr Donegan and his team designed a new set of communication grids and a ‘soundboard’ or ‘eye harp’ designed for use on the Mytobii eye scanning system and devised a musical interface with member of Irish band KILA.

At the premiere showcase event for the project, Mr James Brosnan – a core researcher and ‘alpha user’ of the system, who has severe Cerebral Palsy and is therefore usually limited to interfaces using his controllable physical movements via a neck switch- was for the first time able to play music using eye control.

Performing a live jam with local musician Maciej Hrybowicz, Brosnan amazed his audience with the unique tune he created by selecting different sampled melodies from the digital panel in front of his eyes.

This adds a whole new element of emotional and aesthetic cues to the synthesized voice and text that were previously Mr Brosnan’s main communication forms. What is more, the eye scanning system allows for a level of physical relaxation and comfort that he feels is much better for his health and well being.

Mr Toby Borland of SMARTlab’s MAGICbox technology studio also explained at the show how some of the creative tools required for this project were designed and produced in house, at UEL: proposing a whole new business model for assistive technology that can be both affordable and accessible to all.

The next show is scheduled for Prague, where the team has been invited to present two major research papers at the Leonardo journal special anniversary event, to be held in Prague this November. Some of Mr Brosnan’s poetry will be shared along with a full musical jam for that event, where the SMARTlab’s TRUST Project team will also introduce their work on haptics and robotics for young people with disabilities.

This phase of the InterFACES project was made possible by the Promising Researcher Fund of UEL, drawing on linked research at SMARTlab funded by BBC R&D ad NESTA, and in collaboration with the Oxford ACE Centre and Dr Donegan’s work on the European Commission’s COGAIN Project.

The Mytobii system has been on loan to Mr Brosnan from its developers in and is soon due for return. SMARTlab is seeking further support to purchase a system for Mr Brosnan so that he can continue his writing and music making, as well as for further software development of a research system to be used at SMARTlab and on mobile visits to local East London schools and hospitals where other creative people might require use of this novel communications and creativity tool.

Notes for editors:

Contact: Patrick Wilson 020 8223 2061 / 07951 797 975

The University of East London (UEL) is now a global learning community, with 20,000 students from over 120 countries world-wide. Our vision is to achieve recognition, both nationally and internationally, as a successful and inclusive regional university proud of our diversity, committed to new modes of learning which focus on students and enhance their employability, and renowned for our contribution to social, cultural and economic development, especially through our research and scholarship. We have a strong track-record in widening participation and working with industry.

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Bridging the Digital Divide: Dancing with Hands, Legs, and Wheels
From ESIWiki

‘The Digital Divide’ is a term most often used to describe the gap between the ‘haves and have-nots’ of technology provision – the chasm that still looms large between the ‘developed and developing worlds’. But for many, that divide is a physical one, and is located much closer to home. Whether it is the empty IT cupboard at a local school or community centre, or the view from the cameras rigged atop the Olympic site viewing tower, there is not yet anything like an even and accessible ‘ramp’ between rich and poor, privilege, ability and access.This lecture will be spoken, sung, and animated with live interaction from dancer/choreographer Bobby Byrne & musician/composer Colm O’Snodaigh of KILA. Our work together for the past four years has involved ‘dancing with legs, wheels and hands’ in many countries, and applying the practices of inclusive performance and universal design to the theory and emerging scholarly field which we call, ‘the Informatics of Bodies in Space and Time’.

http://wiki.esi.ac.uk/Digital_Representations_of_Performing_Arts

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SMARTlab PhD Seminar Running from 9-13 July 2007. SMARTlab are running one of three yearly seminar sessions for their PhD students from around the world at UEL, London this week. As well as giving students ample time for both one-to-one peer support and ideas exchange within the international group, the SMARTlab seminar week also includes a series of talks and seminars designed to meet the needs of each student. The seminars cater to the wide range of subject areas, fields of research and specialities of our students. The current session aims to get back to basics and explore the nature of a practice-based PhD and the aim for an original contribution to knowledge in cross-disciplinary fields. The week-long programme also includes practical and academic advice on theory, writing and funding, as well as discussion, debate, and special events. Steve Di Paola will be speaking on modeling intelligent expression and cognitive knowledge systems, and students will be presenting their own research. The seminar also gives students the chance to gain supervision with their supervisors across the different schools of UEL.

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PeopleLAB Launch Workshops
Tuesday – Thursday 13-15 February 07 | SMARTlab MAGIC PLAYroom

PeopleLAB is a laboratory created to explore and address the dissemination of new production technology into a wider user group. The laboratory aims to introduce new design capabilities, mini-production economics and an open source approach to address the requirements of specific end-user groups. The open workshops will demonstrate some of the capabilities of the installed machines and will invite participants to become familiar with the design process and equipment.

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Dr. Lizbeth Goodman

Founder and Director of Safespaces.Net
and Director of the SMARTlab Digital Media Institute UK, wears the Safetywear Line v2.0

http://www.safespaces.net

Safeywear for the SafetyNET Project: high fashion providing and hiding safety technologies to help stop violence against women and children worldwide.

SafetyWEAR is designed for two purposes:
to promote the project’s work with a smart, fashionable line that women of all ages, sizes and backgrounds can comfortably wear; and to provide ‘undercoverwire’ wearable technology tools and triggers to connect to the SafetyNET online, without wearers being noticeable or audible while making their request for help. SafetyNET is a global cyber cafe project that uses the power of new technologies to help stop violence against women and children, quietly linking them to information about domestic violence through online access. In the “safe spaces” of moderated chat rooms, participants communicate with domestic violence specialists, volunteer attorneys, survivors of abuse, and mentors. The project is operating in North America, North Africa and throughout Europe. First phase installations are underway in Asia and Latin America.

SafetyNET/SMARTlab with Bodkin Designs, Gayil Nalls, BBC & UCD present the Undercoverwire Corset & Bodice, hiding a spatial sensing system that anybody can access and use, designed to help a woman in need find a safe space un her physical world without setting off alarms. . .

The Corset and Bodice are washable and come in many fabrics and styles suitable to day wear in the developing world as well. Corset and Bodice with SMARTglove hiding wires and camoflauging the handheld screen, all by by Tara and Kathy Mooney of Bodkin Designs Dublin, with bespoke JET wifi/Bluetooth/gprs-mobile enabled rescue & escape system by Jose Marinez.

Also on show is the amazing Pendant Flacon by artist Gayil Nalls, holding the world social sculpture World Sensorium scent, a mix of the scent imprints of 230 countries statically formulated as one incredible signature scent.

The World Sensorium scentworks are held in the Scentscory bag with LED display, made by Katherine Milton as part of the Ludica Wearables workshop.

World Sensorium – In the spirit of planetary good will, fills the auditorium with paperworks embedded with the World Sensorium, created by Gayil Nalls. Share in a collective memory of the world as one. Keep one and breath in the scent of non-violence.

Presentation supported by

SMARTlab & L Microsoft, with thanks to Ludica, @Lab, Bodkin Designs, BBC R&D and UCD.

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September 2004

September 9-13
Lizbeth Goodman was an invited speaker at the annual IBC Conference in Amsterdam . Growing from its roots in broadcasting, IBC attracts 40,000 professionals involved in the creation, management and delivery of entertainment content worldwide. The IBC Conference is renowned for its opinion forming agenda and its ability to tackle the technology, business and craft-skill issues impacting on the business.

2004 Oct- Sep The Annual Autumn PhD Seminar a great success as an online meeting of minds. . . + SMARTlab collaborations with BBC R&D were rewarded with a three month secondment announced for Dr Marc Price to join the team and prepare the way for assistive technologies to be rolled out to Singapore in the new year . . . + Irish partners host a series of collaboration meetings in preparation for the next round of EC and international partnership agreements. . .

2004 Sep 23-25 Lizbeth Goodman was an invited speaker at the ESF Workshop “Affective and Emotional Aspects of Human-Computer Interaction: Emphasis on Game-Based and Innovative Learning Approaches” in Pörtschach am Wörthersee, Austria.

August 2004

Lizbeth Goodman, assisted by Jana Riedel, presented a course for New York University titled Extended Body. This course introduced 4 bespoke software tools made by artists and performers, for the specialized needs of artists and performers: Viewhear (SMARTlab), TK3 (Night Kitchen), PORT (SMARTlab/INMPR) & Keyworx (WAAG). The final result was performed live and submitted for grading in the TK3 multimedia book format, which allows multimedia text, image, sound and moving image to be shared online and updated/critiques by audiences.

SIGGRAPH2004, the 31 st International conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques

The SMARTlab team (in association with the BBC, Media Lab Europe, KILA, ArcScience, FIT and Natural5th) presented Guivenevere’s Globe, a synaesthetic (scent, music, movement) short film projected in the round on the Omniglobe system. Directed and produced by Daria Dorosh.

August 11

SIGGRAPH CyberFashion Show

The show featured a wide variety of wearable computers, head-mounted displays, smart clothes, luminous clothing and accessories, cyber-club wear, and CAD/CAM jewelry and bodywear. A number of innovative prototypes and some exciting world-premier technologies promised to propel us into future realms of body-technology integration. Produced by Isa Gordon.

Siggraph Cyberfashion show and private shoot for
the launch of the SafetyNET safeWEAR fashion line.
. .

Siggraph2004
Official Website : http://www.siggraph.org/s2004

Cyberfashion
show website: http://psymbiote.org/cyfash/

Wednesday, 11 August 2004 6:30pm – 7:30pm

Los Angeles Convention Center, Petree Hall D

Siggraph2004 Art
Gallery: Synaesthesia http://www.dariadorosh.com/siggraph

2004 Aug Lizbeth Goodman, assisted by Jana Riedel, presented a course for New York University titled Extended Body. This course introduced 4 bespoke software tools made by artists and performers, for the specialized needs of artists and performers: Viewhear (SMARTlab), TK3 (Night Kitchen), PORT (SMARTlab/INMPR) & Keyworx (WAAG). The final result was performed live and submitted for grading in the TK3 multimedia book format, which allows multimedia text, image, sound and moving image to be shared online and updated/critiqued by audiences.

The SMARTlab team (in association with the BBC, Media Lab Europe, KILA, ArcScience, FIT and Natural5th) presented Guivenevere’s Globe, a synaesthetic (scent, music, movement) short film projected in the round on the Omniglobe system. Directed and produced by Daria Dorosh.

2004 Aug12 NASA Ames Research Centre (San Jose, CA), presentation by Dr Goodman & Ms Reidel on SMART systems connecting scientists and artists in collaborative environments

July 2004

The New Dress & Accessories
made by Mooney Sisters and Fay Torez-yap

The Mooney Sisters : SafetyNET Project
SAFEwear daywear and medinawear collections: prototypes
designed and photographed by Tara and Kathy Mooney
July 2004

(New
SefetyNET safeWEAR gallry>>)

Safewear Accessories Created by
Fay Torez-Yap, Photo by Daria Dorosh, Fit/SMARTlab

April – May 2004

Dr Lizbeth Goodmanhas
been awarded a SHELL Visiting Professorship in Performance
and Technology: round the world lectures beginning in
Singapore

Taey Kim has won online media creative project commission for
this summer time from Open Arts in Seoul. 5th June.
Will present Gildongmoo (road buddy) travel agency soon.

Nick Ryan has scored the new
BBC webcast radio drama hit: DARKHOUSE!-

the first ever radio horror where you decide whose thoughts
to hear (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/darkhouse )

2004 Jan -2005 Apr The TRUST Project is hosted by NTU GameLAB Singapore & KK Hospital for Women & Children, and the Children’s Cancer Foundation(see: link to url for the banner on the home page) + see www.give-trust.org

2004 Nov – Dec SMARTlab closed down 2004 at the SafetyNET meeting in New York very much in the black- with a posh line of evening and daytime Safetywear smart-scent, fashion and accessory line prototypes presented for the first time (by artists Gayil Nalls, Tara 9 Kathy Mooney (Bodkin.ie) , Fay Torez-Yap and Daria Dorosh!

2004 late AprilPhoenix Rising: The SMARTlab team is due to return to Phoenix to take up an artist in residency position as part of the National Endowment for the Arts funded project on BodySense: creating an online performance and creation space linking children in the desert to children in New York. The Phoenix Project. . . Rising From the Ashes (linking two communities of children with difficulties breathing, due to fire exposure and pollution from catastrophe- the Phoenix flies for the Arizona children and meets the characters that inhabit the world of the TRUST project for children in New York)

2004 mid-April AIR Gallery (New York) showcase of ‘Anima Obscura’, STUCKONTHEWEB, and TRUST project work

2004 22 Feb. – March – early April New York, Navajo Reservation, India, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand SafetyNET launch

2004 Feb 15-20 SMARTlab PhD RETREAT and seminar- ARTS and SCIENCE Collaborations (with Macromedia, Lego, BT et al)

2004 Feb 1-14 SafetyNET PROJECT new web site and safe spaces launched online

2004 Jan 16-22 DUBLIN residency at MEDIA LAB EUROPE -rehearsal for Felichean II and performance for the Summit Event/Irish Presidency of the EUROPEAN UNION

2004 January 9SAFTEYNET project to receive LIFETIME TV salute and award feature in TIMES SQUARE

2004 January 2 – 8 Children’s Health Fund residency in New York for HOPE and TRUST Project Development

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December 2003

Dec 22 SMARTlab Holiday Daredevil Extravanganza; TRAPEZE ON ICE 2003
Dec 4-9 DUBLIN RESIDENCY at Media Lab Europe – rehearsal of the new ANIMA OBSCURA show
Dec 10 WOLRD SUMMIT FEATURED PERFORMANCE IN GENEVA- ‘ANIMA OBSCURA’
Dec16-20 Galway/Limerick tour and rehearsals for Felichean II

TRUST II: LEGO joined the team for r&d into 3d interfaces. . .
TRUST project motion capture experiments at NYU and Implementation with the Children’s Health Fund, New York

SPIRITLEVEL:

2 September: the Felichean Flies!

Performance involving 16 young people with disabilities across Ireland in real time telematic linked performances, with Fluxusdance and Counterbalance (dance/community project funded by Arts & Disability Ireland) – a major collaboration with Media Lab Europe’s MindGames Research Group + the NY CATlab, Fluxus, Counterbalance and the Central Remedial Clinic, Dublin.

November 2003

2003 Oct Lizbeth did the recce for the planned Spring 2004 residency in Phoenix. (see above) ACCESS will be installed at Ars Electonica in Linz during the festival, sept. 6-11, and the exhibition lasts until sept 21. the project was awarded Honorary Mention in Interactive Art.http://www.sester.net http://www.ACCESSproject.net

September 2003

2003 Sep 5 Dr Goodman joindc Ahktar Badshah of the Digital Partnership at the UN (New York) on 5 September to work with international guests dedicated to the ongoing Digital Diaspora Project. see http://www.ddn-lac.org/

2003 Sep 3 Goodman delivered a keynote address to the Assistive Technologies Conference, Dublin. This work is created jointly by the SPIRITlevel team, led by SMARTlab with Media Lab Europe, the Central Remedial Clinic Dublin, the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, the NYU CATlab, the Chilren’s Health Fund of New York, et al.

2003 Sep 11 PHOENIX RISING stream from New York (Ground Zero) to London (SMARTlab) to the ISAin Phoenix: artists from the New York Stuido School worked off site with professional artists Gayil Nalls and Daria Dorusch to gather stories and make interactive media from the Ground Zero site.

This work has been archived for future inclusion in the Bodysense rehabilitation workshop from Phoenix, AZ: live stream online.

2003 Aug 31 – 3 Sep 3

Assistive Technologies Major Conference: AAATE Conference Dublin: SPIRITLEVEL team participating and performing with the children of the CRC on the night of Tuesday 2 September

TRUST III & HOPE

Project Integration Retreats in New York, mid-late September.

PHOENIX RISING

June 2003

2003 June – July SUMMER CONSOLIDATION OF BODY AND SPIRIT: writing up phases for all projects and publications

2003 May 27-28 VIRTUAL INTERACTIVE PUPPETRY PLAYSHOP:

SMARTlab and CATlab work with Petra Kuppers of Olimpius Arts, Anita McKeown of SMARTlab & Clilly Castiglia of CATlab, leading a playshop for artists with disabilities in Liverpool, as part of the Disability Arts Festival, Performance of work by participating artists using SPIRITLEVEL technologies on 28 May, 6pm|

18-21 May, BREATHING SPACE: bringing TRUST and PHOENIX RISING to the children of Dublin and activating the live link with colleagues from Media Lab Europe

10-12 May 03, TRUST III:

New York, TRUST project feedback phase and convergent media workshops

2003 May 7 INNOVATION CENTRE LAUNCH & OPENING of EXHIBITION: details to be announced

April 2003

27 April – 3 May 03, PHOENIX RISING RESIDENCY Playshop & Performance Trial: Lizbeth Goodman and team take up an artist in residency post as part of the National Endowment for the Arts funded project on BodySense: creating an online performance and creation space linking children in the desert to children in New York: the Phoenix Project. . . Rising From the Ashes (linking two communities of children with difficulties breathing, due to fire exposure and pollution from catastrophe. The Phoenix flies for the Arizona children and meets the characters that inhabit the world of the TRUST project for children in New York)

2003 April 25-27 DNET: London, the LUX DNET Artist Film Festival: SMARTlab hosting a panel 2003 April 19-23 TRUST II: TRUST project live playshops at the Monetefiore Children’s Hospital NY

2003 April 16 TRUST II: SMARTlab, all graduate student joint supervisions and reports / assessments

2003 April 15 CIVIC EVENT: Jill Dolan et al speak at the Civic, followed by a 5pm cocktail seminar on Practice-based Phd models UK and USA (at the SMARTlab-invitation only)

2003 April 14 CIVICcentre EVENT: London Science Museum Forum SMARTlab chairing a session on new technologies

for the CIVICcentre; reclaiming the right to performance (www.civiccentre.org)

2003 April 13 London: DAY Retreat Seminar for SMARTlab Phds and supervisors

4 April Gabrielle Roth dance/wellness workshop in New York

2003 March 27-29 PUBLIC ART at Eyebeam: Collaborating artist Marie Sester opens her new project at Eyebeam, NY

March 2003

29 March – 2 April BODYSENSE residency part I in Phoenix

13 March – all week, SEED: International Women’s Day/Awareness week: SEED celebration

Feburary 2003

2003 Feb 26 – March 2

DEAF03: Knitted Europe Festival in Rotterdam including SMARTlab presentations and Graduate Seminar – see details of Code Zebra performances and RADICAL presentations on the DEAF site.

2003 Feb 8-12 TRUST I: Implementation with the Children’s Health Fund, New York

18-19 Feb, SPIRITLEVEL: Dublin – CRC Implementation/PLAYSHOP for children with CP and SB using SPIRITlevel technologies

2003 Feb 22 ANJALI New York premiere, Wooster St., NY

2003 Feb 19-22 New York – Children’s Health Fund implementation meetings

2003 Feb 18 Dublin – Media Lab/CR implementation meeting

2003 Feb 14 FRAMEWORK VI Inter-Faces project team meeting at BT (Ipswich)

2003 Feb 12-13 SMARTshell retreat for global classmates development (Macromedia, Ivisit & BBC)

2003 Feb 10-11 BBC RETREAT regarding convergent media

2003 Feb 7-8 PARIS – RADICAL PROJECT FINAL REVIEW

2003 Feb 6 Dublin CRC and Media Lab Europe planning meetings for SPIRITLEVEL

2002 26 November COPENHAGEN IST IS for FUN

15-17 November, Amsterdam, Doors of Perception: SMARTlab presentation by Jo Gell in the Open Doors Competition,
THINKtank participation by Lizbeth Goodman and Jo Gell regarding the future of interactive design.

2002 November 4-6 Little Shalwyn, SMARTshell retreat

2002 November 1-8 Oval House Theatre PLAYshop for artists with disabilities

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Selected PRESS CLIPPINGS for the show:

Technology shows flair in dealing with disability.

Irish Times 6 June 2003
By KARLIN LILLINGTON / 927 words / English / (c) 2003

Playing around with an “avatar” a computerised, animated character which can represent you onscreen in cyberspace, and that you control – is pretty cool stuff. It’s especially cool when you are a kid in a wheelchair, and the avatar lets you move and dance and interact with other friendly avatars up on a giant screen, and even gives you the chance to perform onstage before an audience.

The avatars – in this case, giant butterflies – are part of an unusual project at Dublin’s Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) called Feileacan (“butterfly” in Irish), which combines complex human/machine interfaces and virtual reality computer graphics tools. Controlled by modified joysticks and microphones that will respond to gentle blows rather than voice commands, the children and their butterflies will be

part of a networked dance performance at the Seventh Annual European Disability Conference in Dublin, August 31st to September 3rd. Feileacan is just one way in which computers and kids with disabilities are being brought together by an Irish-based, international collaboration between leading technologists and health care professionals. They’re teaming up to find more creative ways for young people with disabilities to learn and interact.

“Our mantra is that we want to expand human potential through innovation, and we really believe that every person deserves to benefit from technology,” says Mr Gary McDarby, a researcher with Media Lab Europe (MLE), the Dublin spin-off of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology’s Media Lab. MLE and the CRC are partnering with New York University, London media and idea incubation centre Smart Lab UK, and New York’s Montefiore Hospital.

Children at the CRC are trying out a range of technologies along with kids from three Irish schools for children with disabilities: Scoil Mochua in Clondalkin, St Gabriel’s School in Limerick and St Clare’s School, Ennis. Ms Kate Brehm, researcher with NYU’s Center for Advanced Technology, says the avatars offer a kind of “virtual puppetry” that lets children control their onscreen characters with the same techniques needed to manoeuvre their wheelchairs.

“This is quite an innovative and flexible set of learning projects,” says Mr Ger Craddock, manager of technical services at Dublin’s Central Remedial Clinic. The clinic children have workshops to use the technologies twice a week, he said, and because of the interactive nature of the projects, are meeting children they otherwise would rarely, if ever, see. Another virtual interactive world, called Still Life, uses mind-calming virtual-reality “energy orbs” to improve co-ordination and concentration. A child can sit or stand before a computer screen holding a sensor-filled orb (a large ball) in each hand – one orange, one yellow. On the screen are two swirling energy fields, one orange and one yellow. The computer senses where the orbs are in the child’s hands, and tracks their movement across the screen.
The child tries to remain still while moving the ball to match its energy force on screen. When that happens, there’s an explosion of colour, and slowly, a large puzzle piece appears. Gradually, a jigsaw of an otherworldly landscape begins to fill the screen.

“There’s a lot of sophisticated technology behind what looks like a very simple interface. This is really looking at computer vision in a new way,” says Mr McDarby. The game requires a complex tracking mechanism, the ability to monitor feedback from multiple sensors, and intelligence to filter out background colours that could be incorrectly read as the two orbs. Several other projects are in the works. Researchers have set up a basic webcam network between the CRC and the three schools, for example. So far, the network lets children
in the two Dublin locations to talk to and see others in Limerick and Ennis. The network is limited by the slow speed of the internet link, which is dial-up access in each location except the CRC, which is on ISDN. Surely an ideal project for a broadband operator in Dublin, Ennis and Limerick?

The projects demonstrate how technology can be put to work alongside people with disabilities to create a more inclusive world. That’s the theme behind the conference at the end of summer, when professionals from around the world will come to UCD to discuss assistive technologies and how they might do even more in the future. You’d think this would be the ideal year for Dublin to host such a conference, as it is the European Year of People with Disabilities as well as the year when the Republic will host the Special Olympics World Games.

But Mr Craddock says the organisers face extra challenges precisely for those reasons. Many firms are sponsoring the Olympics and haven’t the budget to support the conference, and news about the conference is hard to hear above the publicity for the Games. And the Government says its budgets are also tight. The organisers could use some industry help to sponsor elements of the conference, from keynotes to individual sessions to lunches. They also need a sponsor to publish the proceedings, which will go to libraries around the world. They also have a major exhibition of assistive technologies at UCD’s O’Reilly Hall that will be open to the public during the conference, and have spaces for additional exhibitors.

More information at www.atireland.ie/aaate, or contact Mr Craddock at graddock(at)crc.ie,
or (01) 805-7523. klillington(at)irish-times.ie Karlin’s tech weblog:
http://radio.weblogs.com/0103966.

Virtues of virtual dance.

Irish Times
2 September 2003

1,351 words / English / (c) 2003

A computer program can enable people with disabilities to ‘dance’ on screen, with health and artistic benefits, writes Michael Seaver

‘We’re just going to try a little experiment,” says a voice in a broad Nobber accent, the speaker’s head disappearing into a mass of cables coming out of the back of a computer. Dancers are standing watching, hands on hips. Eventually they go back to rehearsing moves. In another corner are three Americans, recently arrived in Ireland, who are editing sounds and tweaking visuals on laptops. In the middle a lone figure hunched over another laptop types instructions and glances up at the results on a video projection. I’m sitting in the middle of this, watching the worlds of science and dance collide.

The location is MediaLab Europe, in what used to be the Guinness Hop Store in Dublin, and the rehearsal is for Counterbalance, a dance project made up of able-bodied and disabled dancers. They will perform tonight at the O’Reilly Hall in Dublin, at the opening of Shaping the Future, the seventh conference of the Association for the Advancement of Assisted Technology in Europe. Counterbalance is just part of a performance that brings together projects in development at MediaLab Europe, CAT Lab in New York and SMARTlab in London and applies them in a performance context.

The “little experiment” has worked, and we can now see projections on two big screens. Canadian Robert Burke boots up Still Life, a computer program he has developed at MediaLab that tracks the motion of two orbs, which in reality are two oversized tennis balls. The result is amazing. A camera is focused on one of the dancers holding the orbs; this image is projected onto the screen, but there are also two shimmering lights that flit about it. The dancer “catches” these with the two orbs, and her image freezes and dissolves into a picture of a landscape, only to reappear when she moves again. “I wrote the program over a few days,” says Burke, “and then developed it further with people in the Central Remedial Clinic. The idea was to find a way to make physiotherapy a bit more interesting. A lot of the time people have to do monotonous movements every day as part of their physiotherapy, so this program means they can move their arms by chasing the light around the screen and have fun while exercising.” He is working on a permanent version for the clinic that will be intuitive enough to be used by physiotherapists with no computer or technical training.

Burke is part of a group at MediaLab called Mind Games, which works on a number of projects in body and movement awareness. Relax To Win is a computer game controlled by sensors that monitor stress levels through measuring pulse, breathing and temperature. Your character in the game is in a race but moves faster the more relaxed you are – so, unlike conventional, tension-inducing computer games, it forces players to reduce their stress levels. Similarly, Breathing Space used breath sensors to move a character in a race, changing speed with the amount of breath used. As it can differentiate between deep diaphragmatic breathing and shallow breaths, children unable to move their bodies can control a character in a video game, so experiencing and controlling movement.

“The most ambitious program we are developing is called Brain Child, which is for children who would be unable to use a joystick or any other input device. We use an EEG interface that monitors brain activity. If you move your right hand the brain will create electric signals that we will monitor. But if you just think about moving your right hand we can pick up about 50 per cent of the same signals. In other words it is technically possible to visualise motion, so you can make a computer figure move a certain way just by thinking about it.”

So far Mind Games has been collaborating with organisations such as the Central Remedial Clinic and the Higher Education Authority; now it is moving into performance and, by working with the Counterbalance project, applying the ideas to both dance and disability. “The process of working with the dancers has been great because it’s pushed us into new directions,” says Burke.

Cathy O’Kennedy, a choreographer and self-confessed technophobe, asked him if it was possible to track movement rather than objects, so he went back to the program and made some changes. “For us the ability to track free movement unhindered by objects was important,” she says, “and since we are working with people with disabilities the possibility to track even the smallest movement was just as important.” A driving force behind uniting dance, disability and technology is Lizbeth Goodman, director of the SMARTlab Digital Media Institute for Site-Specific Media, Performing and Digital Arts. “I have always been interested in this type of work. I did a lot of volunteer work with deaf children many years go, but my first professional job after my
PhD was with the BBC, making interactive drama, and the first thing we did was look at multimedia and how deaf and blind people respond to it.

“About six or seven years later I was heading up a PhD programme for artists using technology, and two of my students who were both dancers were doing research on dance and phenomenology. One had a severe neurological condition and the other had had an accident, which meant that they were both in wheelchairs around the second year of their PhD. By the time they finished they were not able to move freely at all. “The focus of the group began to change in response to that, and a major focus of our work became the creating. We then began developing virtual puppets or avatars that could move in a virtual space.” She worked with the Mind Games group and Brian Duffy of MediaLab on the avatars and has developed a performance with a group from the Central Remedial Clinic.

Kate Brehm, of CAT Lab in New York, has worked with group of Irish teenagers on a butterfly puppet that will also “perform” at tonight’s show. “There will be two groups,” she says, “one performing live in the O’Reilly Hall and another in the MediaLab building. The performance will be beamed to the group at MediaLab, which will control the butterfly puppets that are projected behind the group dancing. In this way they can interact and even control the performance. “We have worked with sound montages that will also interact with [the traditional group/] Kila, who will be performing live for the dance. The long-term benefits for this technology lie in its ability to bring people together from different parts of the world and allow them to perform together, and it’s our aim to integrate this technology into children’s hospitals and schools.” The Shaping the Future conference has offered Counterbalance an opportunity to relaunch. “The impetus came from a colloquium for members of Project arts centre last year, where discussion arose about whether education or community arts work could be cutting edge,” says O’Kennedy. “I argued that the words ‘community’, ‘education’ and ‘cutting edge’ were not mutually exclusive and afterwards began reminiscing with Colm O’Briain about the Counterbalance project that had happened in the mid-1990s under the auspices of Very Special Arts at City Arts Centre.
He then heard about the Shaping the Future conference and saw it as a possibility to regenerate Counterbalance.” The interaction with MediaLab has enabled Counterbalance to expand its existing model and look at different ways of moving, but the two-pronged approach of workshops and performances remains. One is facilitative and offers a space to explore integrated dance experiences; the performances, with smaller groups, allow audiences to witness movement, both real and virtual, through bodies that they might not normally consider watching.

Counterbalance will perform at Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge on September 27th and in Castlebar on November 15th

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