Events Health News Projects

ADA x Health 2023

Beginning October 16 and continuing until November 17, The Bank at UNSW Kensington campus will host ADA x Health. The Bank (formerly the Commonwealth Bank building on campus) is a brand new initiative developed by UNSW Health Precincts, as a stepping stone toward the UNSW Health Translation Hub currently under construction as part of the Randwick Health & Innovation Precinct. The space will house Health Precincts staff, as well as showcasing health research from across the university.

We’re fortunate that Arts, Design & Architecture (ADA) will be the very first residents calling the space home for this 5 week program of health and wellbeing research from across our diverse faculty. This event has come about as a result of ADA identifying our strengths in health research, which includes the addition of myself as the first Director of Sector Engagement (Health) for the faculty.

Along with public talks, workshops, exhibitions and info sessions, we are installing the impressive Storybox outside of The Bank throughout the ADA x Health program. Storybox will display an evolving visual program of ADA research impact stories, individual research projects and interactive experiences to capture feedback and public sentiment around health and wellbeing research.

ADA x Health is open to the public, as well as all UNSW staff and students. Find out more about the extensive program of events here.

Autism Projects Social robots

Kaspar social stories (2018)

Kaspar is a humanoid social robot, designed by researchers at the University of Hertfordshire to support autistic children with social communication and interactions. Led by Dr David Silvera-Tawil (CSIRO and UNSW), the Creative Robotics Lab (CRL) have a Kaspar robot on hand to conduct research examining the usefulness of a humanoid robot as a tool for enacting Social Stories.

Social Stories are a tool that Dr David Silvera-Tawil and Dr Scott Brown are using to help autistic children scaffold their social interactions in a controlled space, before applying these skills with other children. In collaboration with each child’s parents or carers, an individual plan is made for the child to ‘practice’ interactions or other social skills that the child may be having difficulty with. By enacting these with or alongside Kaspar, the child can experience and learn these skills through an interaction that is repeatable and manages expectations.

A boy and male researcher stand beside the Kaspar robot. The boy's face is pixelated for privacy reasons.
Image credit: ABC News

Kaspar has been designed to limit ambiguity in facial expressions and behaviour. Unlike humans whom often behave in unexpected or unclear ways, a programmable robot is thought to be a useful ‘stepping stone’ to more complex and demanding social interactions.

Silvera-Tawil and Brown have found that Kaspar can be most helpful as a supporting or mediating tool in clinical settings. As a presence for a clinician to refer to, or use to prime a child for other tasks, Kaspar shows promise. The researchers are currently looking to build on this exploratory study and welcome enquiries for collaboration and further development.

Kaspar in the news


Autism Experience design Projects Social interaction

Responsive Dome Environment (2015)

The Responsive Dome Environment (RDE) is the central design artefact that has been produced as a result of Scott Brown’s PhD research. This space was developed over several iterations, based on the situated feedback of autistic and neurotypical children and their parents.

As the site for non-directed and playful interactions, the RDE allowed children to develop an understanding of their agency through explicitly mapped feedback of the lighting and sound system around the dome-like structure.

Colleagues testing iteration #1 of the Responsive Dome Environment.

The structure and aesthetic considerations of the audio visual system around the RDE both contained the interaction space and created an environment that was welcoming and controlled. This assisted with growing the relationship between the participants and researcher, with children and their parents returning for three stages of the RDE study over 12 months.

In the final iteration of the RDE, the mapping of feedback between the interface and system output was disrupted over time. This led to observable and repeatable triggers toward social interaction between child and parent, for example, the child asking their parent for assistance or clarification on why the system no longer responded as they would expect.

Iteration #3 of the Responsive Dome Environment, during exhibition.

These behaviours have led to the primary outcome of Scott Brown’s PhD thesis, as an interaction design research approach to eliciting feedback from neurodiverse groups. Brown plans on expanding upon this research, both through further studies using this research method and continued development of the RDE as an experiential environment for neurodivergent children.

Artworks Projects

Experiencing Environments (2014)

Experiencing Environments was shown as part of the Mighty Healthy exhibition at UNSW Galleries. The group show explored Design work that addresses health and therapeutic issues, and takes in a wide range of mediums.

Lighting test during build.

This work was developed as a ‘technology probe’ for Scott Brown’s PhD research, to explore the technology that would ultimately be used in the Responsive Dome Environment (RDE). Technology probes are used in the early stages of a design process to uncover information or data about usage of a particular technology. Experiencing Environments was created to encourage neurotypical audiences to discuss issues of sensory hyper and hypo-sensitivity while interacting with the artefact.

The lighting system for this version is inverted (inside instead of outside) when compared to the RDE, and a set of headphones with binaural microphones are attached to the front of the installation. By putting these headphones, the viewer can experience a change in their auditory sense, and some awareness of what it might be like to have auditory hyper-sensitivity. The binaural microphones amplify the sound throughout the space, leading to a variety of responses: overwhelmed; confused; excited; distracted – all behaviours commonly found in autistic children.

Internal lighting system.

The work is not aiming to articulate or presume what it might be like to be autistic. Rather, the system is designed as a catalyst for debate and awareness by people that would not normally consider what a sensory hyper-sensitivity may entail. These conversations with visitors to the exhibition were drawn upon to inform the design approach to the RDE.