All posts by Peter Bennett

Research Assistant, UoB

Peter Bennett is a researcher in human-computer interaction at the Bristol Interaction & Graphics Lab. His research is driven by the aim of joining the virtual world of digital bits with the real world of objects, and in doing so allowing people to physically interact with computers.

Peter's projects have included: ChronoTape, an augmented-reality paper timeline for annotating family history research; ChronoTable, a 'research-seismograph' for archeologists; BeatBearing, a drum machine with ball bearings for beats; and SensaBubble, a scented soap-bubble display. Other ongoing projects, collaborations and interests include the development of magical technology, magnetic pixels, slow technnology, teleporters, robotic origami, lo-fi haptic displays and 'Resonant User Interfaces'.

Grand Opening of the first Parlour of Wonder

A few photos from the Parlour of Wonder opening at Blaise Weston yesterday. This was a fantastic event to celebrate the opening of the ‘Memory Parlour’ at Blaise Weston Court. We are currently developing this idea and calling it a ‘Parlour of Wonder’.

Community engagement is increasingly recognised by the care sector and social care commissioners as vital in tackling issues of social isolation in our older populations living in care. Together with Alive! and our partners in care settings we want to co-design engaging community spaces (parlours) where older people can interact with evocative objects and the StoryCreator app and our other prototypes to record and share their memories and life histories. This will involve imagining and creating a new space of discovery, connection, meaning making and mystery, rather like the ‘cabinets of curiosity’ or ‘wonder rooms’ of old. Unlike cabinets of curiosity, our ‘Parlours of Wonder’ will not be designed and curated by us as arts and humanities researchers, artists and computer scientists. Our vision is that these technology enhanced spaces will be co-curated by and for residents, care staff, families and community members. Care managers who have been involved in the TMP project believe there is huge potential to use these Parlours of Wonder for community engagement where local school children, community groups and isolated older people will be encouraged to enjoy a cup of tea and a chat or a more formal encounter, sparking questions, connections, new interests or opportunities for contemplation.

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3D Scanning Objects

Have been playing around in the lab for the last few days with scanning objects with the new Matter & Form 3D scanner. The resulting scans can be used for both representing the object digitally (for instance on an iPad) and for potentially recreating the object with a 3D printer or mill. Initial results are promising, more updates to follow!

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U3A Kings Stanley

As a team I admit that we joked about our up and coming gig in a village hall in the depths of Gloucestershire – we’d been advised to bring all our own kit so arrived with a projector and screen as well as speakers to ensure we could introduce some of our co-researchers to the audience.

We’d been invited to participate in a regional University of the Third Age (U3A) conference and as I’d worked with U3A members on a previous research project I knew they’d be a lively and engaged audience for our work. I wanted to pursue with them whether some of their members might be interested in being involved as potential volunteers to test our technologies in more care home settings.

We quickly realised that this audience would be our most engaged and interested yet! I kicked off the presentation talking about objects and memories and in particular raised the idea of ‘de-cluttering’ and the many ethical and practical issues that can arise in the process of moving from ‘home’ to ‘a home’ or ‘the home’. As I spoke I sensed the audience were itching to comment so opened up the presentation to questions and comments much sooner than I’d planned. Our audience had many interesting things to contribute from personal experiences of having to clear relatives houses following death to professional experiences of working in auction houses and care home settings. It felt as if we could have talked all day about the issues that were being raised however Lucy and Barney (Stand + Stare) and Pete still had to speak so we were forced to close down this discussion. I was keen to reiterate our desire to work with them to enhance the scalability and sustainability of the project.

Lucy and Barney outlined our main prototype ideas and then talked in detail about the interactive book idea that they are co-designing with residents in our care home settings. They demonstrated some of the visual recognition software that they are using and talked about both individual book projects and the fantastic group book project that was instigated by one of our residents, a gentleman at BWC. Again it was obvious that the audience were itching to comment and ask questions and again lively debate ensued, including discussion about how the process is managed, the importance of working with care staff and the applicability of the idea more broadly outside of care home settings.

Pete then took to the stage, further stimulating our fantastic audience using metaphors for our design ideas including ‘genies in bottles’ and mind reading magic. Again rather than turning the audience off with talk of the use of virtual reality and harmonic resonance his presentation created even more of a buzz and again much debate ensued. Some were concerned about how older people might be able to use the technologies Pete talked about in terms of physical difficulties as well as inexperience with technologies. Pete talked about the need to ensure that there are various ‘entry points’ for different users and the need for personalisation of the device and the prompts depending on the particular needs of individual older people.

We ran over and we’re sorry that this meant there was less time for our audience to enjoy coffee, tea and biscuits. However conversation and discussion continued in the coffee break and many audience members approached us to offer help, support and further ideas.

Two learning points stand out from this for me:

  1. U3A is a great organisation – pioneering new, self organising forms of learning and new ways for older (mostly professional) people to be involved in society in meaningful ways after they have retired.
  2. Don’t make assumptions about audiences and the kind of reaction/understanding you might get from them – the openness to new ideas at this event put many more ‘academic’ audiences to shame.

Celebrating Age Festival

We took our portable care home installation down to the M Shed today for the Celebrating Age festival, organised by Age UK Bristol. Our recent work was displayed in the installation and we had a few demos, including the Oculus Rift VR demo, for people to try out. We had some great conversations over the day with all of the visitors and got some great feedback on our projects.

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Presentation at ‘Temporal Design: an Interdisciplinary Workshop’

Just back from attending the two day Temporal-Design workshop held at Edinburgh University. I presented on the second day during the Pecha-Kucha session, giving an overview of how I consider time in my designs. The prototype “Story Stethoscope” (I’m still working on a final name) was discussed including how it presents many temporal-design challenges including the consideration of the many timeframes around stories and objects including: the life of the object, the person’s history, the time of the story told and the narrative arc over many stories. Download the slides for my talk here.story-stethoscope-slide

The workshop consisted of a number of longer format talks from Kevin Birth, Sarah Sharma, Siân Lindley, Sus Lundgren and Bronac Ferran, and ten Pecha-Kucha presentations. The first day kicked off with a ‘walkshop’ around Edinburgh centre with a history of time-keeping from Kevin. Towards the end of the workshop discussion groups were formed to discuss a number of points ranging from ephemerality and fluidity, through to time and the environment.  I found myself discussing the ‘vocabulary of temporal-design’ in a group led by Jen Southern.  The group created a rough draft of a possible ten week lecture series on temporal-design allowing the framing of the vocabulary.

Bore-ometer v2.3 from the Design Challenge

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Future Memorial Artist Workshop

A few of the Tangible Memories team attended the “Art, Death & Candy” event at the Arnos Vale cemetery  yesterday evening. A discussion was led by artist Julia Vogl and Dr Jon Troyer about the possibilities of future memorials and their role within society. During the process gumballs were used to cast a vote on the factors the participants found to be most important. Continue reading

Smarter Care & The Internet Of Things

This morning I attended a SPHERE talk by Bharat Bedi about the Smarter Care in Bolzano project. The talk addresses the question of “how can smart computing help people stay in their own homes for longer?” with details of  a case study made in the city of Bolzano where there is a rapidly ageing population.

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