Still Life is one of the MindGames projects being developed in conjunction
with physiotherapists at the Central Remedial Clinic in Dublin. The
project uses a movement interface designed to creatively reward a
participant for controlling their physical movements in a calm and relaxed
way. It can be customized so that a patient is rewarded for practicing a
movement over and over again and getting it correct, thereby turning
previously monotonous exercises into an engaging interaction. The program
is also able to track progress, so that a physiotherapist needn’t always
be present to monitor improvement during daily exercises.
The Féileacán project
Still Life leapt from the world of physiotherapy into the performing arts
in early September as part of the Féileacán project, a performance that
had its debut at the closing ceremonies of the 2003 conference for the
Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe (AAATE).
(Féileacán is the Irish word for ‘butterfly.’)
Féileacán united the teenagers
from four Special Schools in Ireland who both inspired and expressed the
project’s narrative. The Féileacán itself is a symbol for rebirth that
provides the focus of the narrative: the children of the world, fed up
with prejudice and poverty, build a spaceship to take them to a better
world. The ship evolves into the Féileacán that guides them to a new space
where they can breathe new life, encounter new friends, and overcome their
The Féileacán story is told
through a dance performance that stars the children themselves alongside
Dublin’s Counterbalance dance troupe. The performers are supported by a
variety of innovative technologies, including Still Life, that facilitate
new forms of expression. Still Life is presented on a wall-sized screen
behind the performers, effectively turning that wall into a “magic mirror”
in which the performers are reflected. The program tracks their movements
and responds in a variety of ways – for example, by causing dancers to
glow, orbs to radiate energy, and elements of the new world to be revealed
as though they were being painted by the movement of the performers.
Still Life is just one of the
projects the MindGames group has worked on as part of their contribution
to the European Year of People with Disabilities. Other projects include
Mind Balance – a game that uses EEG brain wave activity as a control
interface – and Biomelodics, which uses musical biofeedback to help teach
a participant to control their heart rate.
In December of 2003, the Féileacán team re-united for a performance at the
United Nations in Geneva, for the World Summit on the Information Society.
The performance, called Anima Obscura, dealt with themes of control, and
the interplay between the real and virtual worlds. The entire
interactive component of the show's tech was provided by Still Life.
For Anima Obscura we added
several new features to Still Life, including the ability for 3D
characters in the magic mirror to interact with elements of the real
world. As one example, dozens of butterflies can now chase around
the motion glitter and land on the performers when they stand still.