When I get back in the Netherlands I will start working on an interesting project in collaboration with rehabilitation centre De Hoogstraat in Utrecht. Kids have to learn to drive their wheelchair, which apparently is not so easy, and it involves quite some practice. The practice is no fun, and a project has been set up to involve game design bureau’s to design interactive games that help these kids to learn to control their wheel-chairs. As part of a larger initiative, together with a student from Denmark, who is coming with me to the Netherlands for his masters’ thesis, we will explore a bit more conceptually and fundamentally what it means to augment a physical wheelchair, and or the environment the the wheelchair is in, with new interactive properties. Personally I would like to see the project addressing such basis questions as: how can you develop an identity as being in a wheelchair: how can this piece of technology become part of your body, part of who you are, instead of just a functional tool that compensates for a handicap? This project could in principle address fundamental questions of being (who am I and who do I want to be, how can technology be part of that?), if we think beyond the usual technical problem solving (how can the child learn to control the wheel-chair interface). I think that, especially when we add digital interaction, people in wheelchair could do very cool things that non-wheelchair users cannot. For example, just put two webcams close to the ground on each side, add some stereovision software, and you get a view of the world that nobody else could ever have from just walking. If all goes well we will broaden up this research to include more societal/public organisations, tech- and design companies, and investigate in all these cases what Embodied Technology might actually mean in practice.
(Ehm, well I don’t mean this sort of stuff, exactly:)