Chat Lab

Past ChatLab News and Events

Our two recent public information sessions were very successful, with  record numbers and many messages of appreciation: the BPS Wessex branch Digital Bubbles event, on autism and technology, and the TERENCE project  dissemination event including a talk from Nicola Yuill on how to support children's reading comprehension.

Congratulations to Chris Girvan for being awarded a Junior Research Associate Bursary to work in the lab over the summer, looking at use of tablet computers to support communication in language-impaired children with autism.

Success in ChaTLab publications: all the lab Phd students had papers accepted for the September BPS Cog/Dev conference ; Zoe Hopkins  had papers accepted for the NNDAL conference in Newcastle and for ICSI 2013 in Lugano and Sam Holt has had her paper accepted for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Nicola Yuill and ShareIT project colleagues presented at the prestigious CHI 2013 conference on collaborative use of iPads: see the video here.

ChatLab members research presentations on aspects of autism were warmly received at our recent outreach research interest group (EPSRIG). Email  if you are an education professional and would like to be on the EPSRIG mailing list.

Undergraduate studentships:

Are you an undergraduate psychology student considering a career in research? New Opportunity! We are looking for someone to study the use of a multi-touch table to support collaborative working in children with autism. This is an opportunity to gain hands-on research experience in the ChaT Lab, potentially with funding from the Junior Research Bursary 2012

Congratulations to Lucy Metcalfe for winning a Junior Research Associate Bursary to work in the lab in summer 2011. Lucy continued the analysis of the lab's SCOSS software to support children's collaboration round a multi-touch table.

Khaled Bachour visited us from the Open University 'CHANGE' project, working with the 'Sheep' tabletop collaboration game.

A new EPSRC-funded PhD student, Tamas Borbely started this October 2011 working with our Augmented Knights Castle .

January 2011

In January 2011, we welcomed three visiting researchers to the ChatLab; Ueli and Stefan from ETH, Zurich who helped us build a new AKC (and are still available for trouble shooting) and then Rafaela Steinborn from Free University Amsterdam (VU University Amsterdam) in March who worked with the AKC.

ChaTlab Open Day:
We had an extremely successful Open Day on Wednesday 22nd December in our lab Pevensey 2, 5B3.

St.Anthony's Open Day: Members of the ChatLab recently gave an open day for an enthusiastic audience of parents of children with autism at our partner school, St Anthony's, in Chichester. Parents had a chance to try the latest technology with specially-adapted software, including a multi-touch table, the Ipod, the Ipad, animated building blocks and programmable musical bricks, and to hear about the studies done in the ChatLab, including software to support awareness of others and the development and evaluation of a talking medieval castle playset.

Playmobil talk well received in Barcelona:
William Farr gave a talk to the 2010 9th International Interaction Design for Children conference held in Barcelona this June. The talk focused on children with Autism using radio frequency identification technology built into a playmobil toy set. This technology enables playmobil characters to be programmed to speak when positioned in the play set. Results suggest interactive toys help children with Autism by providing a 'safety net' for different types of communication. This means that children can communicate with the play set in a manner they choose, but in a more sociable way with the addition of technology. The talk was well received as the field of interaction design wants to attract more psychologists and educators as they tend to use technology in specific, focused and more practical ways.

'a shining example':
Victoria Bonnett recently presented work with Creative Partnerships on an Enquiry Schools project, looking at pupil motivation and helping children to manage their own learning. According to the education adviserm the work was a 'shining example of evidence gathering' in schools.
She was presenting work she conducted as a Research Practitioner in a Creative Partnerships Enquiry Schools Project. This was a creative project combining art work, centered around the Ancient Egyptians, with a maths focus. The research question set by the school was "How can creative approaches enable children to contribute to their learning development?" This project wanted to challenge children's set ideas about ability and "groups". By making maths cross-curricular and embedding learning in a creative project, it was hoped that children would be more encouraged to take risks in their learning and move away from the idea that maths was always about the "right" answer and think more about the process. The school were interested in the impact of a creative learning approach as well as wishing to make informed changes to their target setting structure throughout the whole school. Encouraging children to become involved in decision making and to become more confident in contributing ideas and just "trying things out" also encouraged them to think about the processes involved. The children became more confident in exploring their methods of solving word problems and girls particularly became more confident both in their opinion of their math ability and their opinion of maths as a subject.

BPS Developmental Psychology Section Conference:
Members of the ChaTLab presented their work in a symposium at the British Psychological Society Developmental Psychology Section Conference at Nottingham, 9-11 September ( In a symposium entitled 'What technology can tell us about developmental theory: typical and atypical development', chaired by Nicola Yuill, members of the lab spoke as follows: How interactive tabletops affect self-regulation and joint attention in children's collaborative problem-solving (Amanda Carr & Nicola Yuill), Contingency of interactive play patterns in children with autism playing with a tangible construction toy (William Farr) and Using joint control software to assess active awareness of other in children with autism (Sam Holt). Sam's paper was additionally picked up by the BPS Press Office (see press release). The E-goals project was also featured in a talk by Victoria Bonnett, entitled What eats herons? How mastery- and performance-oriented children seek help in an interactive science task.

BPS Annual Conference:
Victoria Bonnett appeared as one of the main conference reporters at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in Brighton, March 2009. She reviewed several presentations for the The Psychologist.

Pecha kucha at SRCD 09:
Amanda Harris presented a pecha kucha presentation at the 2009 Society for Research in Child Development's biennial meeting in Denver, Colorado. A pecha kucha is a style of presentation orginating in Japan which has a very strict format: 20 slides which advance automatically every 20 seconds. Follow the link below to watch Amanda's presentation.

Using novel technology to support children's collaborative interaction

Autism Reading Group:
The Autism Reading Group addresses current issues in the field of Autism. We meet once every five weeks to discuss a particular journal article which tackles an aspect of this complex disorder. We have group members from many different fields and professions, such as academics from computer science and psychology, special needs teachers, and consultants from Local Authority special needs support services. A long term aim of the group is to establish an Autism research unit at the University of Sussex. For more information and to join please contact Nicola Yuill

Research in local nursery:
Sam Holt has been working in a local nursery investigating how very young children work together.

Brighton Science Festival 2009:
Over 100 children (and some of their mums and dads too) came along to try Digitile on our DiamondTouch multi-touch screen computer at the Bright Sparks event which is part of the annual Brighton Science Festival. Aged 6-60 and all different sizes (some too small to see over the edge of the table!), people worked in groups to create an amazing array of colourful tiles. For those who rose to the DigiTile challenges (creating tiles with the right fractions of colours, or particular lines of symmetry) stars were awarded. All went home with popular personalised stickers of their finished designs, and a big smile!

1st Prize in Poster Competition
Congratulations to Will Farr who won 1st prize for his poster at the workshop: Ubiquitous Computing at a Crossroads: Art, Science, Politics and Design hosted by Imperial College London. Poster title: Evidence for Tangible Interfaces as a Collaborative Tool for Autism Spectrum Conditions.