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Research and Innovation Conference 2017

Almost at the end of my first year as a PhD student, I got accepted at the Research and Innovation Conference in Southampton and had the opportunity to present my research in front of an audience outside of my university.

Obviously, to make things fun I was the first to present in the morning. So after waking up at 4.45am, getting a cab to the station, and jumping on the first train to Southampton, I was ready to present! (not)

I was very satisfied with my presentation, even if due to the incompatibility between windows and mac, I had a few issues with my slides: in the end, nothing major. Right after the presentations and a brief Q&A we moved to the poster room, where I had the chance to assist at the live demonstration of Tychonas Michailidis‘ haptic feedback system for dancers. Being familiar with the system, it was very insightful seeing how people coming from different areas of expertise, both related and not to music, were reacting to the system. During this period of time, I had the pleasure of discussing my thesis with a pianist, based at Solent University, that is currently completing her master in acoustics. This conversation led to a series of very useful questions from her behalf that made me immediately realise my next steps in this research.

1. In the case of it not being based on an acoustic piano, what will it sound like?

Sometimes, I feel like spiralling in the vortex of interaction design, losing sight of the main topic: music. Musicians want to know what an instrument will sound like before anything else. This brought me to rethink my action plan for the future giving a higher priority to sound.

2. What gestures will it be able to recognise?

A categorisation of gestures has also been in the work for quite a long time now, and also for a technical point of view (machine learning purposes) a clear definition and vocabularisation of the gestures that the system will recognise is needed.

…and last but not least…

3. When will I be able to test it?

User testing is also a stage of my research that I’m really looking forward to, and it was very good to see that once I explained the project, one of the first reactions was: “When can I try it?”.

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After this good chat, we went to have lunch at the buffet, and with my head still lost in the previous conversation, I appeased my mortal need of eating. (to be honest, the buffet was amazing)

After lunch we went to the main lecture theatre to assist to the final keynote that would have wrapped up the conference titled “The Unseen”, by Lauren Bowker. This was a truly inspiring talk and to be fairly honest one of the best I have had the pleasure to attend in a long time. Such a young researcher that in just 2 years of activity managed to truly make an impact on the world of fashion, design, textiles and more! To summarise: Lauren created a new kind of ink that she can shape at her will to react to external factors such as wind, temperature, sound, etc. This creates clothes, accessories, and pieces of art that are able to uncover unseen data from the surroundings. Such an amazing concept, and a truly impactful research.

My words don’t do justice to the magnitude of the project, please read more at: See The Unseen.

After being hit by a wave of inspiration and creativity, I decided to start my trip home from Southampton as my train ride would have been long, and I was starting to feel tired. In conclusion, even though this was a small conference, it was the perfect one for my first outdoor experience. I had the chance to share my findings to an external audience in a small environment, without feeling too much pressure. I had the pleasure to receive some feedback from a pianist which is directly involved in my area of research and I managed to see one of the best keynote speeches in a long time. I would call it a win!

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