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Music and Arts Technology students demonstrate PhD work in Tech City

Friday 31 October 2014

QMUL PhD students who are part of a programme to combine research with digital creativity took part in a research showcase in East London. On 22 October PhD candidates from Queen Mary’s Media and Arts Technology (MAT) programme took their work to the Rich Mix Cinema in the heart of London’s creative and digital hub as part of the Digital Shoreditch ‘Digital Economy Research Showcase’.

QMUL’s Mile End campus, where the MAT programme is based, is just down the road from the area known as Tech City, where many of the UK’s most exciting new companies base themselves, and where Government invests tens of millions of pounds in supporting innovative tech businesses. The close proximity means that students have great opportunities to link up with businesses and investors and find practical applications for their research.

The showcase was an opportunity for the students to demonstrate their work which combines rigorous scientific research with practical applications. Among those projects exhibited were Yulia Silina’s The Distant Heart which is part of the current trend for wearable technology. Yulia’s necklace uses research into the internet of things and human centred design to create a keepsake which can match a distant partner’s heartbeat to reflect it and their emotions through touch and light sensations. Yulia, who gained a masters at QMUL before transferring to the MAT PhD programme is interested in computational, or ‘smart’, jewellery and her research has shown that people who wore the necklace felt more connected to their distant partner.

Other presentations from QMUL included Jeni Maleshkova’s investigation of the ways in which virtual reality can be used to improve how people engage with art exhibitions; Lida Theodorou’s 12-way mirror installation a collaboration with a local business to create a mirrored window display in which the mirrors are constantly angled to directly face the customer; and Sophie McDonald’s kinetic sculpture activated by colours from nature.

All the students were just as excited about the work others on the programme had done as their own and said that they gained from being part of a small cohort and working closely together across disciplines allowing them to bounce ideas off each other. Toby Harris, whose research into how live interaction with a performer changes audience reaction resulted in a robot that has toured comedy clubs delivering its own material, enthused about The Distant Heart, saying “It’s truly transformed technology into something that will be worn. The programme is as much about how people use technology as it is about the technology itself.”

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