This week I have spent three days visiting the WESC Foundation, which is a specialist centre for visual impairment based in Exeter. The centre provides specialised education for a range of age groups – they have a school and a college, and function as a centre for co-ordinating outreach programmes.
The reason for my visit was to work on a Knowledge Transfer Project (KTP), which has been funded collaboratively by the Technology Strategy Board and the Medical Research Council. Further details of the project are available in this press release. In a nutshell, the project involves a post doc researcher working at WESC for two years. This researchers job is twofold; 1) to apply cutting edge knowledge from cognitive neuroscience research into the everyday running of WESC, thereby developing the specialist capabilities of the centre; and 2) to design and develop a computer game that can rehabilitate the vision of people who suffer visual impairment due to cortical damage. I am involved in the second part – generally helping to ensure that best practices in user centered design and game design are applied and to help ensure the game created is fun. Crucially, the game is based on real science – this paper describes the computerised therapy programme that has been found to bring about vision rehabilitation in adults.
The principal investigator on the project – Prof Tim Hodgson – was also visiting, and the post-doc researcher Jonathan Waddington, who works full time at WESC, was also around for the three days. I think we made some really good progress on the project and have a much better understanding of the various design challenges facing us in delivering a useful and engaging piece of software. The visit went very well – the enthusiasm and expertise of the staff at WESC was an inspiration and they made us feel very welcome. I’m looking forward to my next visit and excited about the potential impact of this work.