Monday, August 7, 2017

New Initiatives in Mental Health

Although my sabbatical stay at the Black Dog Institute in Sydney, Australia, is only half over, four new research initiatives have taken form already :

1) Body Mapping on the Body : Body Mapping is an initiative led by Dr. Katherine Boydell that involves people creating full-sized body maps that incorporate their visualizations of different conditions. Body maps have been developed for anxiety, psychosis and planning. What we are doing is using augmented reality technology to project these maps back onto people's bodies. We hypothesize that these self-applied maps may intensify or change how people experience the body maps and potentially affect the interventions that incorporate them in useful ways.

2) Abuse Monitoring : Among the potential areas of application for smart garments in the area of mental health, one application jumps out as a priority. Although the technology to make this truly workable in an unobtrusive and low maintenance manner needs to be refined, the basic technology exists today to develop a garment with pressure-sensitive pads that could record and track blows to the body. Combined with a microphone and some accelerometers to monitor sudden movements, it appears that a garment could be developed in conjunction with an app that identifies situations likely to involve abuse. Currently we are working with specialists of physical abuse to better determine the specifications for such a garment, as well as exploring the technological requirements.

3) Symptom Monitoring : In a way that parallels the Abuse Monitoring application, the incorporation of accelerometers, microphones as well as sensors for monitoring changes in mood could be used to track and assess a range of mental health conditions and disorders, including anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. This would compliment existing smartphone apps that rely on self reporting. The issues, as for all smart garments, is to develop a way to incorporate the electronics in a manner that allows their removal and reconnection quickly and easily to support garment maintenance, as well as to find circuit architectures that keep power requirements to a minimum. Designs are being developed and appropriate technologies identified.

4) Brief Contact Support : One of the functions currently supported by certain smart phone apps is the ability to send brief "pick-me-up" messages to people with self image issues. By incorporating actuators such as vibrators or tiny heating elements, it would be possible to send more visceral, physical messages of caring to another person, perhaps accompanied by verbal messages if necessary. A design for such a garment is being prepared.

Embodied Entanglements

Haven't posted here in a while, but it isn't because activity has been slow. On the contrary.

Ongoing research projects

1) Participatory opera : We presented a first version of the opera to a conference audience on June 23rd in Basel, Switzerland. The current version of the opera runs about 25 minutes. The opera presents a full story arc, albeit in a compressed form, beginning with an introduction into the future world in which the action takes place as well as two of the three primary characters and carrying the action through to a climax which involves interactive elements. The story deals with overcoming resistance to expressions of difference, including transgender difference. A second version involving interaction enhancements is being prepared for the fall of 2017. We are working on a book to describe the project in its globality, and an online version of the opera is also under preparation.
Public Performances
- Pinnacle - An Interactive Opera. Empathies2017, Gala performance, 11th European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts Conference, Basel, Switzerland (2017).

2) Orienteering belt : We have been working on a belt to provide information concerning spatial orientation for a range of different populations (those with attention deficit issues, visual impairments, and cognitive impairments). The challenge is to determine an interaction interface which is readily understandable but still powerful enough to support a range of possible actions. We are drawing on cognitive load theory to limit the complexity of the interface.

3) Masturbation aids for people with upper arm impairments : Our work on masturbations aids is in its final stages. We have developed a series of handles to assist people with a range of upper arm impairments in manipulating erotic toys, as well as redesigning certain devices for stimulating genitalia. Three articles based on this work have been published, and a fourth is in preparation.
- E. Morales, V. Gauthier, G. Edwards and A. Guerette. (2017). Co-designing Sex Toys for Adults with Motor Disabilities. Sexuality and Disability Journal. 35(3): 1-10.
- Ernesto Morales, Véronique Gauthier, Geoffrey Edwards, Frédérique Courtois. (2016). Masturbation practices of men and women with upper limb motor disabilities. Sexuality and Disability. 34: 1-15.
- Ernesto Morales, Véronique Gauthier, Geoffrey Edwards, Frédérique Courtois. (2016). Women with Disabilities' Perceptions of Sexuality, Sexual Abuse and Masturbation. Sexuality and Disability. 34: 1-12.

4) Ecological framework for disability and mental health : Work with the author (P. Fougeyrollas) and collaborators of the Disability Creation Process model has led to several efforts to extend the model to integrate sustainable development issues as well as, most recently, ongoing efforts to accommodate the issue of mental health promotion and treatments. The ecological framework draws on a dual understanding of resiliency drawn from two distinct domains, the psycho-social domain and the biological domain. One article has been published in this area and a second one is under development.
- Geoffrey Edwards. (2016). Augmented Corporality - Key Technologies for Last Mile Interventions for People with Disabilities. First IEEE International Symposium on Last-Mile Smart Mobility, Paris, France (1-10)

5) Sensor net ecologies : In addition to providing a broader understanding of disability and mental health, ecological perspectives also offer ways to integrate the development of smart cities and the internet of things with more human-oriented goals, that of enhancing resiliency in human communities. The idea of resiliency applies not only to the development goals of sensor networks, however, but also to the process dynamics of their implementation. An article has been submitted in this area and a second article is in development.
- Geoffrey Edwards. (2016). Sensor Ecologies - Designing the Internet of Things, International Journal of Internet of Things, submitted.

6) Lithospheres : A collaborative project with a partner in private industry, seeking to develop an online exchange environment in which the body is more present, using smart garments and appropriate interfaces and apps. Under the leadership of Dr Jocelyne Kiss.

7) ProBE : Development of near body distance measurements, a collaborative project involving private industry, under the leadership of Dr. Brad McFadyen. My team is responsible for developing the user interface using cognitive load principles.

8) Pro(x)thèse : A first smart garment has been developed that provides an opportunity for people with spinal cord lesions and other conditions where sense of self and self image have been strongly impacted, to help them recover a sense of a sensual self.
- Geoffrey Edwards, Frédérique Courtois, Nancy Dubé, Ernesto Morales, Luis Velasco. (2015). Pro(x)thèse An Interactive Installation That Enables The Exploration Of Sexuality, Disability And Self Image. 4th ISCoS and ASIA Joint Scientific Meeting, Montreal, Canada

Ongoing pedagogical activities

1) Embodied Entanglements Seminar : Since January 2017, we have been holding a weekly seminar exploring issues of embodiment especially through contemporary philosophers such as Deleuze, Whitehead, Sloterdijk, Derrida, etc. The seminar is currently on a summer break but we expect to pick up where we left off in the autumn.