Sensory Stories Research Event at Speke Hall March 21st

Liverpool Echo Sensory Stories at Speke Hall

Liverpool Echo Sensory Stories at Speke Hall

We held a very enjoyable, well attended show and tell event at Speke Hall where we presented our research so far into interactive sensory objects. Researchers discussed the sensory boxes in the Great Hall giving the public the chance to find out about our research.

Group shot Speke

Members of the public were given the chance to tryout the different interactive boxes and other sensory experiements. The Co-Reasearchers showed their sensory boxes to the public.Group boxes

Angela Points Steve with box Elle We also held a Squishy Circuit workshop in Speke Hall Kitchen to make cakes for afternoon tea decorated with LED’s.These pictures below show some of the public trying out the boxes.

listening to elle's sensory boxListening to Patricks box

Elle tries speaking cushion

Elle tries speaking cushion

These pictures show Elle demonstrating the strokable speaking cushion and a member of the public exploring the interactive loaf of bread.
Loaf of bread
We had alot of interesting feedback and visitors were given a biscuit designed during an earlier workshop by Co-Researchers Chris Griffiths and Terry. We commissioned 100 to be made to their design by the Liverpool Cake Fairy they disappeared quickly and were delicious.

Speke BiscuitsIn this video below Co-Researcher Paul Lorde is shown with his sensory box, you can hear sounds he recorded from Speke Hall and see the electronics that trigger the sounds. Paul spent the afternoon in the Great Hall showing his research to the public and he sums up the day.

This video below shows pupils from Elle’s school The Royal School for the Blind trying out the strokable cushion which triggers stories about the people that used to live in Speke Hall. We didn’t expect more than one person to use the cushionat once, really enjoying this interaction.

The video below shows Co-Researcher Patrick Cowley with Researcher Ticky Lowe  demonstrating to members of the public his sensory box which gives a sensory experience of his favourte room in Speke Hall the Billiard Room. His box also shows a camera with and a flash light triggered by a proximity sensor inside the box. So when you peer in it flashes. Patrick also had placed the smell of sherry he notice on a side board in the room. The box has photographs taken by him on the outside.

Access to Heritage Forum Workshop Three

Today we held our third workshop with the Access to Heritage Forum at Speke Hall.

The aim of the day was to review and reflect on the tours of the last visit. Then introduce the group to some simple electonics and hands on modelling with clay. We hoped the group would experiment and play with these materials in order to discover how switchs work, to discover something familiar could have the potential to  become something different. Then the group were introduced to squishy circuits making models with  conductive and insulating dough experimenting with LED’s and motors.

Squishy Circuits

Derek models the squishy circuit dough

Derek models the squishy circuit dough

Derek tries the instant camera

Derek tries the instant camera

Jane modelling squishy circuits

Jane modelling squishy circuits

The picture below shows Derek modelling dough and getting his red LED to light up.The picture below shows Derek photographing his model.The picture below shows Jane modelling with the dough

Elle models a squishy circuit

Elle models with Squishy Circuits

Elle dough model with LEDs

Elle models insulating and conductive dough Squishy Circuits with LEDs

The pictures of Elle above and below show her modelling conductive and insulating dough and aluminium, she then added some red and green LED lights that flashed on and off.

Kyle and the rest making squishy circuits

Kyle and the rest of the Access To Heritage Group making squishy circuits

Squishy circuit model

Squishy circuit model

The picture below shows Kyle exploring a motor, Elle working on her landscape Tom creating an on/off switch with dough for his model and Jane modelling with dough.This pictureToms Squishy Circuit below.

Constructing keys for an electronic piano

The last activity of the day was to construct simple keys for an electronic piano using pieces of foam and adhesive aluminium foil. Each participant created a single ‘key’ for the keyboard using a block of hard expanded foam as a base, and placing a strip of adhesive aluminium foil on the top to act as a touch pad. A wire was attached to the foil which would be plugged into the Arduino board.

Tom and Elle make keys for the keyboard

Tom and Elle make their keys for the keyboard

When all of the participants had created their keys, they brought them to the front of the room and we plugged each of them into the Arduino board. This was connected to a laptop running a simple program that used the keys as input to play various electronic instruments, such as a piano, church organ, bells, oohs and aahs.

Keys and arduino

Keys and arduino

Almost everyone had a play with the piano …

Jane making music

Jane making music

Jane playing keys

Jane playing keys

This video shows Jane playing the keys

The video clip shows Kyle trying out the keys sounding like an organ

This clip show Elle playing the keys sounding like a piano.

Elle on Royal school for Blind Webpage

Elle on Royal school for Blind Webpage

Elle attends the Royal School for the Blind and featured in the school newspage telling the school about her involvement in our Sensory Object research project.


Access to Heritage Forum Workshop One 2012

We had the first interactive sensory workshop today with the Access to Heritage Forum at the Museum of Liverpool.20120526-112955.jpg

The day went really well it was great to meet everyone and discuss how we will work together on the research project as participative researchers and how the group may document vists and workshops with various cameras we tried out in the workshop. 

Some of the group had worked on the Sensory Trail at Speke hall, we talked about the objects and workshops from then. We started by wondering what interactive sensory objects could be. We looked at some everyday objects exploring how we use them and what was the effect of using them. 20120526-113536.jpg

The objects included a fan, a feather boa, some gloves with rubbery bits on them, a hat made from bubble wrap, bicycle horns, violet sweets, a bright green polishing mit, a bar of soap, brushes, a jar of lemon zest. The group explored each object and what associations they made from the various tastes smells and sounds. We thought about how all these objects are in some way interactive, physical…then nick demonstrated an object that used electronics to make interactions. We thought about the differences and similarities of the objects. Nic demonstrated a Bend sensor which made a smiley face smile.

Then the group tested some cameras to discover how easy they were to use and what aids could be made to make documenting the research and become more accessible.

The group gave us an insight into the problems they experience using cameras we wrote their thougts on colour stars on the cameras.

K liked the sound of the Polaroid camera this was felt to be important for those with visual impairment it made it clear when and how many pictures had been taken.

D felt it was important that the Polaroid gave an instant physical result.

P L found the camera too bulky and hard to hold.

The Nikon cool pics camera was liked by the group the camera has a touch screen you can swipe through the images in a similar way to an iPad.

P had a lot of comments about it he liked it because it has one button for video and one for stills  P also liked the strap as he was worried about dropping some of the equipment.

A liked the Sony cyber shot because it only had 2 buttons.

Most of the group liked using the iPad to take photos although some found it difficult to which button to press. 20120526-113634.jpg

They all enjoyed viewing images on the ipad, it’s big screen and scrolling through the images.

The group found the Sony video camera had too many buttons?

A found the Kodak Flip camera  easy to use with its big button but she and E found it hard to review the footage.

We discussed ways we could attach the Drift helmet camera to L’s wheelchair, she enjoyed having the camera held at her eye level by the clamp, and being able to see the screen but it was a bit small. 20120526-113059.jpg

Drift camera on wheel chair 2

Images taken by the Drift wheel chair mounted cameraImage taken from Wheelchair mounted cameraImage taken from Wheelchair mounted camera2Image taken from Wheelchair mounted camera4Image taken from Wheelchair mounted camera5Image taken from Wheelchair mounted camera6

We discussed recording the sound of the poloroid so it could be used as sound on an iPad. We also discussed using a mini printer to have instant digital pics. Nick will make a holder for P to be able to hold the camera with one hand.

Some Additional Thoughts

A summary of the demonstration of sensors at the first Liverpool Museum workshop. Thoughts collectively by Nic and Faustina.

We used only a limited number of sensors to demonstrate some of the things that can be done to bring about changes in sound and visual displays. The intention in this workshop was just to introduce the idea of sensors to participants, and let them ‘play’ with these unfamiliar objects, and see what they do, as it is unlikely they will have come across anything like this before.

Bend sensor

This was limited to making a smiley face smile (or not) by flexing a strip of plastic. Bend it into a ‘U’ shape and the face smiles, but when straight it is neutral. But some participants used the sensor in unexpected ways:

  • shaking it, by holding one end
  • tapping on the table, by holding one end
  • using it with one hand and bending it against the body
  • twisting it lengthways
  • flexing it in both directions

Perhaps we could extend the range of possibilities of the sensor by allowing for these different ways of using it? One thing that was missing from this sensor was texture – it is currently plain plastic, and smooth to the touch.

Touch sensor

Although the touch sensor was easy to use (didn’t require any explanation other than ‘touch here’) … most people touched it multiple times, or tapped it, and often didn’t notice the change in sound. Part of this might have been because of the volume of background noise (making the sound difficult to hear) and perhaps also because the sounds were changes in instrument.

One or two people ‘stroked’ the touch sensor, which I thought would be a nice modification for the next session. Rather than just touch on/off, a surface which responds to touching, stroking – different forms of stroking behaviour?


Not many people tried this as they were distracted by other things (taking pictures). The few who did try this out did not notice the effect of blowing. This might have been because the screen was hard to see, or perhaps also because of the action required, and the resulting animation. I don’t know. It needs a more obvious cue .. perhaps a ‘thing’ to blow into?

A few additional bits … (Nic’s observations)

These are the notes I made when we were collecting the feedback from the participants. Some of the observations will overlap with those above.


People generally liked the sounds made when pressing the button (although it was in a position that made it difficult to use), as it helped to know when you had taken a picture. Having the picture appear right away, and a physical object to handle was liked by most people, though the weight of the camera was a worry – concern about dropping it.


Generally liked, though a bit big and also concern about dropping it. Liked the big screen, and found the buttons okay, but some people found the capture button difficult to locate.


Awkward to use and too small. Buttons difficult to use, particularly when using just one hand. On a more positive note, liked the fact it only had two buttons.


Easy to use, and easy to watch the videos and find the photos that had been taken, though  I didn’t get a good idea of why this was favoured. Liked being able to take pictures by touching screen. (Need more information here.)


Simple to take pictures, but other functions were not. Difficult to figure out how to turn on. Hard to find pictures and review videos. Buttons too small.