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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/L027658/1
Title: WE ARe ABLE, DISPLAYS and PLAY: Fostering Collaboration, Creativity and Communication between Disadvantaged Children
Principal Investigator: Cassidy, Dr B
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Comput Engin and Physical Sci
Organisation: University of Central Lancashire
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 24 September 2014 Ends: 23 September 2017 Value (£): 90,586
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Human Communication in ICT Human-Computer Interactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
09 Apr 2014 EPSRC ICT Responsive Mode - Apr 2014 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
For most children playing with other children is an integral part of their learning and development. Through play children learn life skills essential for future development. Collaboration, communication and creativity are all key components of play. When one or more of these is removed the educational and developmental benefits of the play experience are reduced. For children with normal capabilities this is rarely a persistent issue. For children with disabilities, collaboration, communication and creativity can often be restricted because of their impairment. This often leads to the child feeling marginalised and left out. The research aims to reduce this by using assistive technologies to create a more inclusive play experience between children of different capabilities. Given the time available, the research currently has a focus on supporting two groups of children with impairments, children with autism and children with visual impairments.

The research uses personal wearable display devices (such as META-Pro glasses, Google glass or Optinvent-ORA glasses) as the main tool to enhance the play experience. As well as a speaker and a semi transparent video display that the user wears in front of the eyes, a number of these devices also contain sensors such as an accelerometer, compass, camera and microphone. The research aims to use these sensors to provide children with supplementary information about the current play session that they may not have been previously able to access or understand because of their impairment, thus maximising the learning and developmental benefits of the shared play experience.

The work aims to use computer vision and augmented reality (AR) technologies to create a bridge between a physical and a virtual play space. While the physical space that the children will use is shared and will remain the same for everyone, the virtual space that is projected through the devices worn by the children can be personalised to each child according to their needs and capabilities. This level of personalisation will create a more inclusive play experience and reduce the likelihood of children feeling marginalised.

The focus of the play sessions will be play with Lego bricks and the research has the support of the Lego Foundation (which is the charitable arm of the Lego Group, the third largest manufacturer of play materials in the world). Lego play has been shown to have many developmental benefits and teaches children many skills, such as fine motor skills, sorting skills, basic mathematics, problem solving and teamwork. The effectiveness of some of these skills can be reduced when a child has an impairment. For example, a child with autism may have difficulty understanding other children or expressing his or herself to others, or a visually impaired child may have difficulty searching for, or finding, a particular type of brick. Re-representing aspects of play in a way the child is better able to perceive, or simply by providing assistance in a particular task, can go a long way towards allowing children of different capabilities to effectively play together.

As well as innovating in the technical use of wearable displays, and seeking to design software solutions that work for children with impairments, the research will also produce two inclusive play activity packs for use with wearable display devices in both schools and at home/activity centres. An online community resource called the 'WE ARe ABLE Community Portal' will allow parents/teachers/developers to extend the work and customise the activity packs to their particular needs beyond the life of the project.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.uclan.ac.uk