TRUST (Open & Multimodal Interfaces, including the Activechair)

Group Leaders: Prof. Lizbeth Goodman (Project Director), Dr Brian Duffy (Haptics/Robotics Director)
Co-PIs: Dr Marc Price (Screen Systems), Jeremi Sudol (Sensor Systems)
Team: Jana Riedel (Project Manager), Robin Faure (Videographer), Kate Brehm (Puppeteer), Tahmina Parvin (3D-modeller), Taey Kim (Art Director), Colm O’Snodaigh (musical director)

Most projects setting out to explore scientific applications regarding HCI (human movement interaction) fail to include a suitably qualified and trained interdisciplinary team from the outset, with the result that technology tools are created that often just miss being truly useful for the widest target population.

Teams of creative anthropologists, clinicians, medical experts and also performance technology and cultural application experts are required for production of the highest quality, most innovative and most scientifically useful results in this area (see Goodman et al, RADICAL Project publications for the European Commission, 2001-3). The TRUST Project is created by just such a team, with each PI representing a major body of work in a related field.

In TRUST, we aim to move beyond standard methodologies for creation of single tools for single problems, often too expensive or abstracted from user need to be made available in public settings.

Performance Technologists, Puppeteers, Dancers and Actors, like people with disabilities, know from life experience that ‘avatars’ and most existing animation formats do not come close to representing or ‘capturing’ human movement. Avatar-booth technologies create ‘uber-realistic’ characters, too true to life to be true to life, and nearly always missing the spark of the human which is found in eye contact, physical proximity, humour, and what was once known as ‘bedside manner’.

TRUST: The Butterfly Factory

A storytelling game with human movement interaction triggered by a haptic chair

On November 20th 2006 the SMARTlab Team went to the Stephen Hawking School in London to install and test the Haptic Chair and the custom-made soundbox with the selected children.

Here is a short feedback report from the Creative Arts Director at the Stephen Hawking School

– from Molly Doyle

First thoughts and impressions of the active chair.

I was quite surprised by the response of the majority of children who tried the chair on Monday. I thought F would be terrified as he can be a bit anxious of new things. He did however take really well to the chair and on his second visit couldn’t wait to get in it. The simplicity of the switches was also good for him as he was able to grasp very quickly what he needed to do to operate the chair. Similarly child T’s response was much more positive than I had imagined as she too can get anxious and withdraws if she is uncertain. It would have been interesting to see how she’d have responded if she had been able to return for the afternoon session.

Child J was really exciting to see. He is a boy with severe physical difficulties and yet he coped much better with the chair than I expected – he was much more relaxed and his muscle tone definitely became less strong. Its wasn’t clear to myself or his regular class staff if this was coincidence – but it will be interesting to test this out when we have the chair finished and on site.

Again with child B – though we knew he was not having a great day in himself – he showed clear and positive responses to the chair’s movement and to the soundbox. On the chair the simple side-to-side movement allowed him to experience the pull of gravity on his body which he clearly responded to – a simple thing but quite some sensation for him!


We are not permitted to name the children participating, nor to provide specifics on any individual’s physical or learning ability/disability. We will however continue to provide as much contextual information about the group as is appropriate.

We have selected three children per group with whom we believe the most important breakthroughs might be made with use of the trust game and interfaces- either for the children themselves, or for the wider community in terms of what we can learn from these children’s interactions and learning/play styles. The teachers in each group and senior faculty at the school have provided guidance on appropriate ways to work with these children. We may as the project continues add new children to the list of ‘targeted users’ for the final phase.


The group includes many children with complex multiple disabilities (cognitive impairment and some form – or several intertwined forms- of physical disability or degenerative conditions). Some of the conditions which the group have are: Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, mild Downs Syndrome, Autism, and other complex but as yet undiagnosed learning and developmental conditions.

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