Welcome, Tom Smurthwaite! Musician Using Kinect to Remove Disabilities

Welcome, Tom Smurthwaite, to KinectEducation!

Tom and I met through our work and interests with Kinect earlier this year. Tom has been a recording and performing musician for over 40 years and has keen interests in using his skills to help learners with special needs. Here’s some more background information about Tom, his experiences, and how he is instrumental to KinectEducation.

I have been a recording and performing musician for over 40 years. I am qualified as a music facilitator and have worked as a community musician for the last 10 years. I was always drawn to the people excluded from normal musical activity either through lack of motor control and/or profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). I also studied electronics and have retained a fascination for the beneficial uses of technology. Combining these elements led to me being a founder member of Decoda and the driving force behind our innovative Music Gym project. This ran for 5 years (initially a years pilot) and converted a large sports hall into an interactive space for those with PMLD. An inflatable interactive maze for wheelchair users, called the Decodamaze, won an NHS award for the beneficial use of technology in social care in 2009.

I have a vast practical experience of engaging and enabling people with profound disabilities.My aim is to enable people with complex needs to engage with the world in a meaningful and creative way. Technologies designed for musicians, dancers, gamers and security companies can be adapted and used for this purpose.

I use ultrasonic sensors and motion sensing/capturing software to enable people with PMLD to have some control over their environment, to make things happen. Combining different technologies into interactive spaces is my passion, taking technologies away from their designed use. When the Kinect sensor was launched I was very excited at the possibilities of a consumer priced 3D game controller and the last year has only increased that feeling. I am interested now in the transition from Kinect hacks to Kinect apps and will continue to blog about this progress (www.multisensorysolutions.co.uk). I am a musician, songwriter, engineer, producer, performer, technician, stage hand, designer, problem creator and solver for the Music Gym Ltd.

Tom believes that dissolving the interface in computing opens up the benefits of technology to everyone and is honoured to be invited to to join the team! He’ll be starting a year long project with disabled children in January and hopes to include various Kinect applications throughout the year.  Tom will also be looking at gesture recognition and the possibility of using two Kinect sensors (cheap eye-tracking anyone?).  Tom, welcome to the team! 

We’d love for you to be a part of what we’re doing here – building a community of educators, developers, students, parents, and all other education stakeholders – to transform the traditional classroom model.  We’re open to every single person – join the movement and be a part of something big!


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