Two specialists in human-computer interaction have joined the growing team at the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science.
Dr John Shearer and Kathrin Gerling will be continuing their research into interactive technologies that have a purpose beyond entertainment.
Ms Gerling is particularly interested in how motion-based interfaces can be used by people with special needs and her award-winning research on wheelchair-based game input has been presented at top international venues.
By modifying a Microsoft Kinect sensor, Ms Gerling demonstrated how gamers in a wheelchair could interact with motion games. The modification that she made to the Kinect meant that the system could take into account the position and movement of the wheelchair.
Ms Gerling, who will teach on the Games and Social Computing programmes, said: “Some wheelchair-bound patients at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities could benefit from the exercise and entertainment provided by gaming. Commercial technologies don’t really think about these user groups but these games could be a lot more inclusive and benefit society as a whole.
“I would like to create games that help people get better at using wheelchairs, particularly those who have suffered disability as a result of an accident. People struggle a lot more to accept their situation and get used to their assistive device if it happens later in life. It’s nice to be able to help to improve people’s quality of life.”
She is now looking to make contact with local groups who provide support for people with disabilities.
Dr Shearer’s work focusses on engaging the public in ‘creative play’ and understanding how people interact with computers.
He has recently revived his interest in live performance through his work on the humanaquarium – a moveable performance space designed to explore the relationship between artist and audience.
The project involved two musicians working with audience members to create an audio-visual performance using a touch sensitive transparent screen. The humanaquarium was designed to be in a public place, so people could discover and explore the installation, encouraging them to share in the experience of creative play.
Dr Shearer, who will teach graphics and games programming, said: “I approach human-computer interaction from a slightly different perspective – that of how people interact with the finished product, not how it is created. I take a more experience-based approach to designing collaborative interactive performance.
“You usually test software in a nice, safe environment such as a laboratory. That alters people’s reaction as it is a very clinical place. You need to put the technology out there in a public space so the understanding and reaction from people is a lot more realistic.”
Dr Shearer is now looking to create more installations in public spaces and is involved with the School of Computer Science’s Videogames Research Network, set up to explore new concepts in the design and creation of movement-based games.