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ESR12 Co-Designing Immersive Virtual Reality Experiences with People with Dementia

PhD project title:  Co-Designing Immersive Virtual Reality Experiences with People with Dementia

Outline description, including interdisciplinary, intersectoral and international dimensions:

The research collaboration is between SARC (Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queen’s University Belfast), Drake Music and Barcelona-based company BeAnotherLab.   Together these organisations aim to identify improved ways in which emerging technologies, esp. immersive, augmented and virtual reality technologies can afford better inclusion of disabled musicians in music making. The studentship sits within Queen’s Performance without Barriers research group (led by Dr Schroeder).  The immersive sector, including augmented and mixed reality, recently counted ca. 1,000 ‘immersive specialist’ companies generating over £660 million in turnover a year (Nesta Study, 2018) and with platforms such as the HTC Vive announcing a structured Arts Programme, our experiences of how we create and engage with the arts have already changed dramatically.
In this context, the proposed PhD student will engage in research to better understand how disabled musicians will make use of these emerging technologies. It is essential that we include disability at this stage when technologies are still developing so that we may be part of shaping and driving their development and usage.

The proposal continues with research from a past AHRC / EPSRC funded “Immersive Inclusive Technologies” project, which was researching the design and use of immersive and inclusive music technologies for abled and disabled musicians (Schroeder, 2018, 2019).
The proposed new research aims to answer the following questions:
1. What are the most appropriate immersive technologies in the context of working with disabled music performers
(taking into account that there will have to be different design strategies depending on the type of disability)?
2. What novel forms and techniques of performance might arise in using emerging technologies?
3. What are the ethical issues raised through using immersive experiences for disabled musicians?

The main objective of this research is to ensure that people with disabilities also have access to emerging technologies to be creative musicians. The PhD researcher will work with disabled musicians, using emerging technology and these will be designed, tested and built through the partnership.
The research will use qualitative research in the form of user interviews and observation of context specific use of technologies at the partner organisation Drake Music. The project will then move onto a series of rapid design iteration cycles to develop technological solution (using critical
making research methods), which seeks to improve independence, access and ease of use. This part of the research will be supported by our international Spanish collaborator “BeAnotherLab”.  The research is focussed on emerging technology design whilst engaging with the creative sector. It is interdisciplinary and focused on social inclusion. The team already has a proven track record in this area of research, having received two
AHRC funds (AHRC/EPSRC Immersive Inclusive Technologies: 2017-2018; and AHRC Follow on VRIMM: 2018 -current), as well as two AHRC studentships (AHRC NPIF and AHRC CEEF).

Key words/descriptors: Immersive technologies, disability, social inclusion, music, digital media, locative media, live performance, creative

Fit to CITI-GENS theme(s)

• Creative Industries:
Immersive Technologies
Social inclusion

Supervisor Information
First Supervisor: Dr Franziska Schroeder - School: AEL
Second Supervisor: Dr John D’Arcy - School: AEL
Third Supervisor: Dr Michelle McCormack - Company: Drake Music Northern Ireland
Additional Fourth Technical Supervisor: Mr Christian Cherene – Company: BeAnotherLab, Barcelona/Spain

Name of non-HEI partner(s) Drake Music Northern Ireland and BeAnotherLab

Contribution of non-HEI partner(s) to the project:

Drake Music NI will offer the student invaluable training courses, carried out at one of several studios across Northern Ireland. This training results in the student being an accessible music tutor. Drake will share their expertise, gained through working for over 27 years in the area of inclusive music making. Drake will support the student in the research to design best possible immersive technologies for disabled musicians. The student will be placed one day per week with Drake to work in the area of music technology design and disability.
Barcelona-based company BeAnotherLab will serve as a remote advisor, advising the student through online platforms at regular meetings. They will contribute and advise on specific technical issues, particularly in the area of immersive/virtual technologies.
If possible (funding permitted), BeAnotherLab will host the student at their company throughout the PhD research period, at least once a year for a week-long residency. The team will seek funding from Queen’s University to allow for the student’s travel and stay during this in-house industry residency. During the residency, the student will develop and test the immersive technology designs, aided by international experts in the field of immersive storytelling.

Subject area Music, Digital Technologies, Digital Performance, Sonic Arts

Research Centre: Sonic Arts Research Centre