How we're designing musical instruments with the help of disabled musicians and VR | 1/16/2019 | Staff
jolan (Posted by) Level 3
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Most new digital technologies tend to be designed with an able-bodied user in mind. The first desktop computers required fine motor skills to navigate software menus using a mouse, and mobile phones need users to press buttons, swipe screens, and so on. To use such technology a person needs to be fairly dexterous.

In our Performance without Barriers research group, we design digital musical interfaces with disabled musicians in mind. This work engages disabled performers from the start of a new technology and looks at the specific abilities they have. In this way, technologies develop in tandem with them, taking into account their mobility, needs and creative interests.

VR - Technology - Interactions - Music - Performances

Current VR technology is designed for the able bodied, but more importantly it often allows only for passive interactions – listening to music performances, such as Elton John's 360 concert, for example, or "riding" a rollercoaster. We were more interested in how disabled musicians can use VR technologies in an active and performative way.

Our research team consists of a diverse group, including electronic engineers, computer scientists, sonic arts researchers, immersive content designers, a soloist ensemble and a local group that helps disabled musicians perform and compose their own music independently. Together with these musicians, we teamed up with a US software developer, who was designing a VR musical instrument called the "Infinite Instrument", running on a 360° VR headset called HTC VIVE.

Instrument - Musicians - Mind - Account - Types

The instrument was developed with able-bodied musicians in mind, so we designed it to take into account different types of mobilities. This led to one of our musicians with cerebral palsy playing a new VR instrument that was specifically designed to take into account her expressive upper body movements. It did not require her to use fine motor precision in her arms or fingers, which she does not possess.

VR headsets are necessarily about...
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