Somability is the name for a series of technology applications that are being designed by Joel, Pete, Marek and Wendy to promote expressive movement and collaboration among people with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) in their day service settings.
Our partners are Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence and Artis Community and the project is being funding by the Rayne Foundation, Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence, and Cardiff Metropolitan University. Novatec have donated laptops and Microsoft have donated Kinect cameras.
Key to the adoption of Somability has been to engage carers in a mutual dialogue around co-creation, using role-play, rehearsal and performance as methods for discovery and development throughout the project lifecycle.
Engaging carers as collaborators, rather than informants in Somability, whereby they feel relaxed and empowered to act out scenarios, rather than provide verbal or textual explanations, has provided key insights into the idiosyncrasies of individual service user experience and need.
In response, we have developed four prototypes that are visually uncluttered, so that focus is on the service user as the creator, using Kinect to capture the user’s movement and projecting the action as beautiful graphic effects.
Inspired by Myron Kruger’s 1969 Videoplace, and Rudolf Laban’s movement analysis, the dynamics of the visual amplification enable a wheelchair user with limited limb movement to create the same range of effects as a more mobile peer. Furthermore, the potential for empathic movement has been embodied in the design, encouraging rhythmic interaction and extraordinary, experimental performances between service users and their carers.
A striking outcome of this process has been the relationship between carer and service user. We have observed users with the most profound disability triggering the interaction, with carers side by side, responding rather than leading. As with other compelling artistic performances, the audience, other service users and carers, 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. Regular exposure to the technologies is leading to ideas for choreographing a series of performances, beginning with peer to peer, and family “sharing” to more ambitious local community and national public events.