Why use Wearables in the Theatre?


[Music] [Jamie Ward:] We always want to know what’s going on inside someone’s head. I was working as an actor for several years, as an actor we’re all about “what’s my intention or motivation behind a certain line” and as a computer scientist I could say well, this is what the data looks like if I’ve got some motion capture or your heart rate, how can I bring them together? And start to research the brain When we’re trying to study human behaviour we want to be scientific about it so laboratory conditions but real world social interactions and the things we do every day they don’t retain their truthfulness, if you like, once you’re in a laboratory situation we become rather stilted and it’s very artificial. That’s where wearable computing really comes into it because the key component of wearable computing is this idea of using sensors, so this close proximity, to detect context. Theatre is a fixed location, it’s got a scenario set up and it’s repeated again and again and again and that gives us actually as scientists a nice sort of test tube if you like Deconstructing the Dream was a sort of ambitious project to try and bring all of these things together to bring theatre together with neuroscience and wearable computing and it involved a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which was put together by Kelly Hunter of Flute Theatre There’s a technology called Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy essentially it’s measuring oxygenation of blood so the use of certain areas of the brain and this wearable fNIR System we used can be just put in a hat and then some wires going into a backpack this allows the person to sort of walk around and really for the first time I think we’re able to do social interactions like a person having a conversation in a sort of realistic scenario and then look at what’s going on inside their brain. During the rehearsals we did a lot of recording of two actors brains as they were performing The first part of Deconstructing the Dream allowed us to then explore the results of that and present those results to the audience We were also putting sensors on about 40 of the audience members and the idea was I wanted to try and find out what’s the connection between the audience and what’s going on on stage? We have different synchronisation patterns with people we’re in conversation with, whether we like them or not we move in different ways and I wanted to, if we could record this data live from the audience we could get ideas of which bits of the performance they enjoyed more or less or were getting or not getting Flute Theatre do a lot of work for inclusive audiences so they work with autistic children and adolescents in particular, putting on theatre performances with those children and getting them to engage in social behaviours that we didn’t previously think they were able to do One of the assumptions with autism was that there’s a slight failure for people to synchronise with others these non-verbal interactions, movement of the head and so forth don’t happen to the same degree. But we found that wasn’t the case. They were synchronising just not in a standard or typical way and we were using wearable sensors to be able to detect these moments Research with Wearables and the brain is really only just beginning, there’s a lot more we can do A major component of my work will be to take these wearable sensors and take them into schools for autism and see if we can use wearable sensing as communicative tools.

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