Friday, July 3, 2015

Research Nirvana?

Have I died and gone to researcher heaven? The set of projects on which I and my collaborators are currently working feels very much like that could be the case. Here is a brief overview :

1. The Winter Project : This project is the brain child of my colleague, Dr. Ernesto Morales. Essentially, we are working in collaboration with the city council for Quebec City and a range of organisations for people with disability, to redesign city policies, including snow removal practices, to make the city more "disability friendly" during winter conditions. Early results from the project include a redesign of pavement ramps to include a drainage system allowing snow to be melted and removed - pavement ramps are of key importance for people in wheelchairs and are often the site of an accumulation of snow and ice ; the development of a wheelchair-adapted snow-mobile device ; and discussions concerning changes to snow removal practices.

2. Pro(x)thèse : This project, under my oversight, seeks to create an interactive smart garment that is embedded within an active, immersive environment, to facilitate the exploration of self image in relation to sensuality and sexuality and disability. A prototype poncho has been developed which incorporates 12 pressure sensors, interface software has been completed, and photography of people with disability has been acquired. The project includes collaborators Dr. Frédérique Courtois, Dr. Ernesto Morales and Ms. Nancy Dubé.

3. Sex toys : Another collaborative project with Dr. Ernesto Morales, in this project we are designing aids that can be combined with existing sex toys, as well as developing new ones, that provide masturbation ability to people with disability who are often unable to use existing sex aids. The designs can be printed on a 3d printer, ensuring privacy and customizability.

4. ProBE : ProBE (Proximal Body Environments) seeks to develop a diagnostic tool for clinics to assess the presence of brain trauma, both mild and more severe, in patients. The project is predicated on the observation, tested across decades of research on obstacle avoidance strategies, that people who have even mild brain trauma move differently in space and in proximity to other objects (or people) than do healthy individuals. ProBE involves researchers from Quebec City (Drs Brad McFadyen, the leader of the project and Denis Laurendeau) and Toronto (Dr Karl Zabjek) as well as clinicians from both cities.

5. Participatory Opera : The crown of my ongoing research program, developing a massively participative one-act opera based on my own science fiction opus. The concept is to develop the opera itself in parallel with a range of tools that allow active participation by diverse publics in all stages of development as well as the final real-time performance of the opera - input concerning the music, the choreography and the story line itself. These tools include virtual and social environments and specially designed smart garments. The opera project, led by myself, involves musicians Jocelyn Kiss, Serge Lacasse and Sophie Stévance from the Department of Music at Laval University, Marie Louise Bourbeau, a lyrical singer in private practice, Dr Adel Elmaghraby, a computer scientist and dancer-researchers Erin Manning and Cora McLaren. Both myself and Dr. Manning are also fashion designers - we will also be developing the costumes for the opera.