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XFBS!UIF!GVUVSF Clothes that entertain.

Sometimes you forget to have fun. You get a bit nose-to-theground with all the day-to-day things you have to do, work, cleaning, meals. Whatever. It doesn’t have to be like that. New technologies make the everyday stuff a lot more interesting, can make even the clothes you wear a source of interest and entertainment. Computer circuitry woven into items of clothing can turn them into sound systems, visual entertainment or sources of comfort. We have t-shirts and gowns with fibre optic lights that glow, dim, change colour or run riot with a pulsing lightshow. Worn by either yourself or the people around you, these lightshow clothes make that daily round much more interesting, especially at night, where their changing patterns can be seen best, can light up an entire room. Motion sensors can be worked into the garments so that the light responds to your movements. Dance and the light dances with you – streams over your body, fast or slow. With the addition of sound systems in the garment, your movements will unleash harmonious chords along with the changing lights – you can be the creator of beautiful effects, or just the admirer of them. Some shirts have voice sensors woven into the chest area so that the garment lights up when you talk or sing – a good way to get attention.

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And that’s not all – we have clothes in development that work with your mood and temperature, warming you on a chilly day, cooling you down if the weather, or your temper, is a bit too hot. We have boiler suits that inflate to buffer you if you are feeling fragile, others that vibrate and tickle just for fun.



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Scents that are personalised to you, in products you enjoy. Smells have a direct route into the core of our personalities the molecules in the things around us dissolve inside our noses, bringing messages straight to our limbic system, the centre of emotions and memory. That is why a smell can stop us in our tracks, overtaken by something we hadn’t thought of in years. Plasticine. Pencil shavings. Cough syrup. Imagine a cream that smelt of your favourite place, or a balm that smelt like someone you love. Imagine a smell that you can’t even put a name to, but that makes you feel a certain way – safe and sleepy or alert and ready. And it won’t necessarily be the florals and woody notes of conventional perfumes that have this effect – it’s more likely to be something unusual and specific like the smell of the air before a storm, the interior of a dry cleaners, or hot tarmac, perhaps. A team of specialists can work with you to pinpoint smells that have a direct affect on your mood and mind. They have a catalogue of tens of thousands of smells and will work through them with you, meticulously testing your reactions and brain activity, to find your own personal palette of deep mood enhancers. We can then capture your key aromas in products to use in your daily life. Incense for your bedroom, bubble bath, something to hang in your car, washing powder for your clothes, room spray. Signature smells can enhance your life, bringing an extra dimension to your days.

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A simply-operated library of sounds and music tailored to individual tastes. Imagine a vast library of sounds. There is music in there, of all kinds, but you can edit out the stuff you don’t like – free jazz or ceilidh bands, perhaps. There are stories in the library, some read by your family and friends, some made up just for you. You can tune into radio stations from around the world at the touch of a button. There are all kinds of random sounds in there too – chimes, raindrops, fireworks, purring. And favourite words or phrases too. People that you like are saying hello, calling your name. Thanks to the technology available now, all these sounds can be stored in a small box, can be shuffled and changed. And you have two small, simple joysticks to steer your way around this audio treasure trove so that, for once, you have control over what to listen to or not listen to. All the sounds are linked intelligently according to type and mood so that you can easily find your way into the story section or through different types of music – press in one direction and you get more things like the one you are listening to, press in the other and it takes you away to something quite different, through layers of sound till you hit on something you want. Press it twice and you get a random track – a lucky dip. Having two joysticks means you can navigate separately with each – find two tracks that go together, and layer them, fade in and out, then save what you have created as a new track. Add music to the background of a story or rolling thunder to a sad sax solo. A small microphone between the joysticks enables you to add your own sounds or vocals too. You can keep adding to your new tracks, building layer upon layer of sound, adding to your library or sharing with your friends. It’s so simple –small hand movements open up a world of choices. Now you not only get to control what comes in your ears, but you get to create your own unique tracks too.




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A person for hire who articulates what you need to express. Feeling misunderstood? Not getting through? Fed up of hanging on the phone? Your call is fifth in the queue, thank you for your patience. Well, your patience ran out a while back. You need a wordsmith. Someone who will listen to your story and see past the frustrations and emotions, who will find the words to fight for you and what you need. A wordsmith is a master at winning arguments – whether over the phone, by email or good old-fashioned ink and paper – she uses words like knives to cut through the crap and the bureaucracy. You know the kind of thing you get – ‘That doesn’t apply in this area’, ‘there is no money remaining in that budget’, ‘I am not authorised to help’ We offer wordsmiths to work with individuals or families who have lost the oomph to fight, or whose excess of oomph has put their blood pressure into the danger zone. Your wordsmith can take all of your tangled issues and make clean sense of them. She will accompany you to meetings, will hang on the phone for as long as it takes, will write canny letters cc’d to all relevant politicians or journalists who can help your case. A wordsmith’s contacts are legendary. The wordsmith is not only a gifted negotiator, he or she has the ability to stay unnaturally calm in the face of frustration, indifference and blatant incompetence.






A firm and calming embrace. Deep touch pressure has been discovered to produce a calming effect, as if the gentle compression of our bodies produces a complimentary quietening of our busy minds. This can be particularly marked in children and adults on the autistic spectrum, and the writer Temple Grandin talks of how, as a child, she used to climb under the sofa cushions and have her sister sit on them. But wait, I hear you say, wouldn’t an ordinary human embrace be the answer? Wouldn’t a tight hug be the thing to calm the mind and the heart? Well, yes indeed, if you’re lucky enough to have a hugger on hand, but in reality, lots of people can’t bear to be touched in this way. The emotional weight and variance of another person is too much to take on when it’s a simple physical sensation that you’re seeking. What’s needed is a neutral way to produce this pleasant, calming sanctuary. Something you can control yourself. Which brings us to the wonderful Squeeze Chair. Invented by artist Wendy Jacob from MIT in Boston, it is like a soft armchair whose arms are especially wide and deep. When you press on the attached footpump these arms slowly move in to embrace you, holding you fast and safe for as long as you need it. You can control the pressure to make the embrace light as a shell or firm as a bear hug. You can snooze in its reliable hold. If you’re feeling sociable, you can allow someone else to operate the footpump for you, or you can do it for them, delivering a ‘hug’ by remote means.

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A machine that translates visuals into sound. People prize their sight above all the other senses. We think that seeing is the main way we experience the world, not really giving full credit to the part played by the nerves on our skin, the strong instincts connected to smell or all the things that sound can tell us. People without full vision have a more balanced use of their other senses, using all their abilities and instincts to make their way in the world. Some individuals have developed extraordinary abilities of echolocation – using clicks or taps to navigate their way through complex environments. Now a new machine gives everyone the chance – sighted or not – to learn to see with their ears. The vOICe system translates images taken by tiny video cameras or mobile phones into sound compositions, with different pitches and rhythms corresponding to light and dark, solids and voids. You will soon learn the sound patterns and ‘theme tunes’ of the rooms you live in and the neighbourhood around you. Although the compositions sound complex at first, we have to remember that there was a time that we had to learn how to see with our eyes, that our brain is constantly translating light waves into ‘chair or ‘tree’ and that it has the capacity to turn sound messages into objects too. A little like learning a new language.

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Users of the system, some blind from birth, have learned this new way of seeing within weeks, expanding their world massively as a result. Depending on your particular needs, this new system can restore a lost sense or enhance the ones you are already using. ISSUE NO.1


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Light machines that interact with your gestures and mood. You are without a doubt one of the many people who loves the play of light, but up till now you’ve probably just been dabbling, a bit of light experimentation. Well now it’s time to move up to the level of connoisseur. Our compendium of light offers you not one, but two illumination systems to enhance and transform your living space at any time of the day or night. Lux by Day Using the power and beauty of natural light, Lux by Day is designed to be placed in front of your window like an ornate screen. Hung from the screen are an amazing array of solarpowered kaleidoscopes, prisms, crystals and colour filters, which move to catch and bend the available light – throwing it around your room in unexpected blazes and unique patterns – ever moving, ever changing, even on a gloomy day, Lux by Day provides continual delight for the eye. Lux by Night When the sun goes down, Lux by Night is waiting to enthrall you. This 3-D projector can fill your room with the most astonishing effects – floating clouds, spiralling galaxies that you can walk amongst or our popular ‘aquarium’ setting which turns your room into an underwater fantasyland with colourful sea creatures and phosphorescent jellyfish floating through the air. Clap your hands and they disappear with a pop. Clap your hands again and another light show starts up – all kinds of themes and rhythms are available. It can lull you to sleep with floating drifts of colour and wake you up with starbursts. Day or night you can never be bored, because the light and the shapes are always changing, always responding to your movements and mood.





UIF!BSNDIBJS!USBWFMMFS Sensational journeys in your own home.

There’s nothing to compare with the thrill of movement – flying through the air, sailing through a lively sea, racing across endless desert plains in a fast car. You feel alive in every bit of you. Our armchair travelling machine brings these experiences and many more into your own home, to enjoy whenever you want. This ingenious chair is the very pinnacle of simulated adventure. Hydraulic lifts, wheels and a turntable in the base can reproduce any real or imagined form of travel – from sled runners over arctic ice to uneven gait of a camel. Speakers in the headrest accompany the movement with wraparound sound, while a tiny but powerful projector head in the arms of the chair, throws hyper-realistic images on the wall in front of you. It’s just like being there. You can drive a taxi round New York, tour Venice in a swaying gondola or fly over the Grand Canyon suspended under a paraglider. Travel up a bumpy road to the top of a mountain or plunge spinning into ocean depths. In our new five-star model, discreet vents in the armrests simulate the air whizzing by at just the right speed and scent and humidify it with appropriate wafts of seabreeze, traffic fumes, jungle blooms – whichever brings your choice of journey to vivid life. Our new ‘shuffle’ mode mixes up the experiences in new and surprising ways – you can trot on a pony down river rapids to the smell of new mown hay. Create impossible journeys that are even better that than the real thing. And when you’ve had enough adventure, the projector retracts, the hydraulic mechanism tucks away in the base and your chair looks like a perfectly ordinary, mild-mannered piece of furniture.

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TPVSDF!POF! UIF!JEFBT!UFBN Artlink formed, with support from Esmee Fairbairn Foundation a series of projects which fall within the title The Ideas Team. The aim being to find solutions that will enhance this person’s life – either by addressing a particular problem, such as isolation or boredom, or working with sensory strengths (smell, hearing) to develop interesting experiences and a degree of self-determination. The development of each solution is informed by the individual at all stages. Teams have included artists, scientists, academics, families, specialists, friends. They pool their skills in response to one person’s life experience, opening up new ways of thinking about that particular situation.


14!TPVOE!DFOUSBM A response to limited choice, working with a man who could not turn on his radio and therefore could not choose what he wanted to listen to. Our solution here is a development of another Artlink project which partnered artist Steve Hollingsworth with informatics scientist David Murray-Rust to develop an easily-operated audio bank consisting of his mother’s voice, music, links to Radio Forth, sounds from his childhood, favourite classical music for a service user who was particularly interested in music and audio material. They coupled existing MP3 technology with a specially developed switching system which made it operable through one button/switch. To hear Nicola White’s short story about the project please go to http://www. something-in-the-pause-by-nicola-white




A robust box of tricks that plays with you as you play with it.

This solution was partly inspired by a need to find subtle ways to entertain individuals through adapting clothing. A way of capturing interest through work with light and texture. Artists Yvonne Mullock and Ciara Phillips investigated how clothing could be used to entertain even when care staff were very busy. Garments are not intended to replace human interaction, but as a way to get people to interact with each other. For more information on how advanced circuitry carrying power, data or sensory interfaces can be built into wash and wearable clothing, see

It’s bigger than a bread bin, It’s smaller than a fridge. It’s a sturdy, strangely shaped box with panels and spots on it. Hit the different areas and sounds burst from it – a trumpet toot, the crash of glass, a flushing toilet, a run of rhythmic drumbeats. Roll it across the room and a pattern of sounds follows in its wake. You can throw it against a wall or stroke it with your fingertips – sounds will come from it that interact with your mood. It can react to your voice too – laughing back at your jokes, or throwing out a cheeky phrase or random vowel. If you’re feeling angry, the box can take it. Hammer it with your fists and it will ‘kerpow’ and ‘bam’ right back at you. Kick it. Throw it. But it won’t fight to the death – for your sake and its own, it soon delivers a soft soothing beat to wind you down and cool your jets. Two, four or more people can play with the box at the same time, rolling it between them, jumping on it in sequence, drumming on its sides. The box is the perfect, versatile companion to all sorts of moods and situations – in different modes it can be a disco, a cheering crowd or a bird-filled country morning.

13!TJHOBUVSF!TNFMMT How do you create a whole new world for someone, based on smell for people with multiple learning and physical disabilities? This solution springs from an Artlink project, when olfactory artist Clara Ursitti worked alongside incredibly involved support workers, Bob Whalley a clinical psychologist, with advice from Pamis at Dundee University to investigate the potential of smell as a sensory stimulus. Over a two year period they tested smells, learned the ways in which individuals non verbally communicated like and dislike, identifying the best time to offer each person the scent. The project resulted in the creation of specific products, bubble bath and hand cream, infused with personalised scents such as dandelion and horse stables, which elicited positive emotional responses from the individuals involved. For more information on Clara Ursitti, see



15!XPSET!MJLF!LOJWFT Not a technological solution, but one inspired by a persistent need to find new ways to draw attention to age old problems, namely the inability of support systems to listen to a problem and practically respond. A good example of a scribe in action, and an inspiration for this solution was writer Laura Marney’s publication for Artlink - ‘This Side of Heaven’ which sought to articulate the difficult situation parents face when their son or daughter with a learning disability has to leave home. The writer created a fiction so that that the issue could be better understood by those in charge of policy and services. To download Laura Marney’s short story, see books/artlink-stories/this-side-of-heaven-bylaura-marney

16!TRVFF[F!DIBJS Some people require a tight embrace, pressure on parts of their body to relieve anxiety and agitation. For more information on Wendy Jacob’s Squeeze Chair, see view/216. For details of Temple Grandin’s earlier experiments with deep pressure therapy, see UTOPIA—INSPIRED THINKING



The machine described in solution six exists in rudimentary form and is beginning to be widely used. Developed by Dr Peter Meijer, a senior scientist at Philips Research Laboratories in the Netherlands, the system is called The vOICe (the three middle letters standing for “Oh I See”). It works by translating images from a camera on-the-fly into highly complex soundscapes, which are then transmitted to the user over headphones.

Is it possible to make a drum machine, which plays with you, which is robust, can be battered and kicked and still come back with familiar sounds and beats? The sound box has been developed to prototype level in an Artlink project by artists Kirsty Stansfield and Simon Yule for two brothers, who love rhythm.

For further information, see

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18!MVY!.!B!DPNQFOEJVN!PG!MJHIU Partly inspired by some individuals’ attention to detail within Artlink workshops, their all consuming interest in light and contrast within a static or moving pattern. Artlink recently began work with Glowdoodle, a programme developed by Eric Rosenbaum at MIT. For more information Also inspired by the film ‘In My Language’ and is made possible by recent advances in solar power cell and 3D imaging technology.

19!UIF!BSNDIBJS!USBWFMMFS The inspiration for this solution came from work developed by Steve Hollingsworth, Ciara Phillips, Laura Spring, Jim Colqhoun and Laura Aldridge where film projection, sound and movement are used to create ‘virtual journeys’ for wheelchair users.

Jay Silver Kelly Dobson

EJTDVTT We would like to carry on this discussion with you. If you would like to find out more, exchange or add new ideas then please go to

Directed by Alison Stirling Written by Nicola White Illustrated by Jonathan Owen Designed by Tess Wood

Combined with technology used in fairground and military simulators, an advanced but compact ‘travel’ machine is made possible. For more on the history and technology of simulation, see Simulation

Artlink Edinburgh & the Lothians 13a Spittal Street Edinburgh EH3 9DY T: 0131 229 3555 E: Artlink is a company registered in Scotland No. 87845 with charitable status, Scottish Charity No. SC006845 29


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Utopia Magazine  

What would happen if we took time to learn from a person with profound learning disabilities or complex needs and if we found more imaginati...

Utopia Magazine  

What would happen if we took time to learn from a person with profound learning disabilities or complex needs and if we found more imaginati...