Professor Wendy Keay-Bright, BA, PhD, FHEA

Screen-shot-2011-06-27-at-12.03.03-150x100.pngProfessor of Technology and Inclusion

Director, Centre for Applied Research in Inclusive Arts and Design (CARIAD)

t:  02920416609


Somatopia is Professor Keay-Bright's most recent research project. Funded by the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Cardiff Metropolitan University, Somatopia aims to bridge the gap between artistic practice, technology innovation and end users who are disenfranchised through perceptions of disability and lack of resources (human and technological).

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The design of the Somatopia emerged from a series of drama workshops and live performance at Arts Depot, London. Following this, Wendy's partners at Cariad Interactive tested out ideas for teaching others to make their own Sompatopia projects using Openframeworks, and hosted the first Somatopia RPi Lab at the FabLab, Cardiff Metropolitan University. Four SEN teachers, covering ages 4-18, two pupils, plus staff from the School of Art and Design, took part in a rich mix of acting, gestural interaction, paper prototyping and storyboarding.

Somatopia has since been demonstrated at a bespoke workshop for Scope in Australia and the National Autistic Society in the UK; the project will also be presented at CHI, 2016. For more details on this, and to download the software, code and instructions please visit:


Somability is a project led by Dr Keay-Bright in collaboration with Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence and Artis Community.


Specialist Subject Areas

Participatory Design
Inclusive Design
Interaction Design
Interactive Arts
Graphic Communication
Digital Storytelling
Autism and computers


BA (hons) Graphic Design


I am a designer with over two decades of experience in the area of interaction, animation and moving image design, including teaching, research and development, project management, knowledge transfer and public engagement. I am currently Professor of Technology and Inclusion and Director of the Centre for Applied Research in Inclusive Arts and Design (CARIAD) CARIAD is a multi-disciplinary centre, bringing the disciplines of the arts, sport and psychology together to work on applied research projects with stakeholder partners.

My background is in Graphic Communication and Animation, and the work of animators who have discovered powerful forms of mediating experience through the expressive use of abstract form, movement and technology have been a powerful influence throughout my career, which includes teaching, professional practice and research. My most recent research activities in this area have been practice-led, action research projects undertaken with children with autism spectrum conditions, many of whom experience profound anxiety and do not communicate using verbal language. For this group, the scientific, information processing approach to modeling, supporting and augmenting human activity, rarely leads to the understanding of communication as a personally constructed, creative act of expression. The most commercially successful output of this research has been ReacTickles, a software product and print resources, available worldwide through a major education software distributor. ReacTickles and ReacTickles Magic Apps have exceeded 12,000 downloads since release in 2012. The Somantics project has reached over 18,000 downloads in the same period. Both Somantics and ReacTickles have been included on the Research Autism and ICT SEN best apps list since 2013.

Whilst my research explores human-to-human social interactions with young people on the autism spectrum, through real-time performances, of particular interest has been the desire to enable the user/player to choreograph physical input with abstract visual and musical outputs. The notion of performance is intended to promote a sense of personal presence and to illuminate the presence of others, effectively amplifying the most tentative of movements into a highly visceral exchange. In contrast to technology interventions that use virtual reality and social networking to augment communication, my work aims to place interaction in the here and now, as the very essence of the experience. I do not aim to generalise experience, as is often the goal of behaviourist approaches to intervention, rather, I see each experience as something unique, individual, and a property of the phenomenological conditions that constitute experience. My interest in technology is to augment and render these experiences visible. Although inspired by philosophical perspectives on phenomenology and perception, my research has a distinctly practical application. My practice-led approach has encompassed a variety of contextual studies that experiment with simple, affordable everyday technologies as a way to encourage creative and critical exchanges between designers and end-users. The outcome is to provoke discussion and ideas, rather than to seek a solution to a problem.

As such, I adopt a minimalist approach to design, allowing the user to add their own complexities by removing cognitive stress and placing the user/player at the heart of a playful interface.

Current research

Currently my work focuses on inviting people to experience spaces together through large-scale camera projections. Fundamentally, the interfaces seek to amplify the interests and abilities of the most hard to engage young people and older adults in outreach and community settings. Working directly with musicians, dancers, therapists, teachers and service providers, I am committed to discovering new vocabularies for social communication through the expressive arts and technology. Driving this passion has been my hands on experience in inclusive productions with several arts organisations, including Artis Community, Sherman Theatre, Arts Depot and GD Dance.

Principal Investigator and Project Manager
2014-2015 SOMATOPIA Raspberry Pi Foundation
The project is pioneering the use of the RaspberryPi computer as a creative platform for inclusive, experimental artworks. The unique context for this project, which sets it apart from its competitors, is that it foregrounds participatory design methods, bringing novice developers together with potential beneficiaries throughout the project lifecycle. The outputs of this process are experimental interfaces, together with a structure for creating highly individual performances that can be scaled to suit any environment. Significantly, these outputs embody inclusivity, permitting personal and social interaction to emerge through bodily (soma) exploration. The design is being co-created and trialed through collaboration with several arts organisations.

Recent Publications, Exhibitions and Awards

Click here to view Dr Wendy Keay-Bright’s papers and publications on Cardiff Metropolitan University’s DSpace repository.

Click here to download a full list of Dr Keay-Bright’s publication and exhibition list.

Rayne Foundation; Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence
Somability is a collaborative project undertaken with Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence, who provide lifelong skills and arts activities for adults with complex needs. The goal of the project has been to create a suite of motion sensing software resources that can make movement irresistible for the many adults who have little opportunity for participating in appropriate sports and leisure activities. Somability is being designed to utilise everyday spaces as performance spaces and environments for playful, rhythmic and co-created interaction

Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence; Touch Trust; Welsh National Opera
This project was a celebration of the work of Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence, supporting adults with complex needs. The outputs included a performance of the Aesop’s fable, North Wind and the Sun at the iconic Wales Millennium Centre. Performers included service users, the Touch Trust, the Welsh National Opera.

2011-12: SOMANTICS
Higher Education Academy, JISC, TechDis, TSB.
The project pioneered innovative uses of game technologies, making them accessible to some of the hardest to engage young people. A significant funding award enabled the inclusion of young adults in residential care in the development and evaluation of software – Somantics. This suite of open source applications provides a medium for expressive communication and creativity. Furthermore, it is truly inclusive. The project also included free iPad versions, which can be used by the most severely autistic person, the experience is totally person centred and no prior skill is required. Free downloads are available from the project website. Somantics has a world-wide following and has united teachers and learners in exploring bodily interaction as a unique, empathic mode communication.

Rayne Foundation
The project investigated the benefits of technology as a transferable medium, helping young people adjust to new environments. The outputs included technology applications that could downloaded onto large and small scale devices, depending on individual need. Examples include large scale projections in the assembly hall, gym, corridors as well as classrooms and homes using iPads, enabling children to take aspects of their experiences to different spaces around the school. The work is an extension of ReacTickles (see below) and uses bold, abstract, cause and effect interfaces to attract and maintain attention and to encourage repetition, helping children to adjust to new settings. The project involved a Special Education School for pupils with autism in South Wales. Outputs included a free iPad App and software downloads. For more see

2013: Listening Aloud
Youth Music
In partnership with MUSE (Music in Special Education), and Cardiff Metropolitan University, I am conducting research and exploratory technology development in order to discover ways to make music accessible for those who experience additional barriers to participation. The project includes children from three special schools in the West of England.

2012-13: SHAPE: Shaping the Future of Technology in the Classroom
Funded by the ESRC
There is a growing interest in technology enhanced learning for children with autism. Whilst having strong theoretical and technological foundations, pedagogical and social relevance is frequently missed when technologies are not appropriately deployed. The SHAPE project uses digital stories to capture the powerful voice of teachers and pupils, enabling them to share ideas, resources and examples of good practice.

2006 – 11: ECHOES
This Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) project has been created to improve children’s social interaction through exploratory learning in a multimodal environment. The project involved partners from 8 major UK Universities and included the target population of children with high functioning autism, as well as typically developing children, in the design of the system. For more see

Keay-Bright, W. (2014) Towards Independence: Using motion sensing technologies to amplify the abilities of adults with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties, Recent Advances in Assistive Technology & Engineering, RAatE 2014

Guldberg, K., Keay-Bright, W., Parsons, S., Porayska-Pomsta, K., Kossyivaki, L. and Mademtzi, M. (2014) ‘Hear my story’. The Shape project: working with school communities to create digital stories about embedding technology use in classrooms. ITASD, Paris, October 2014.

Keay-Bright, W. (2013) Designing Interaction Though Sound and Movement with Children on the Autistic Spectrum Proceedings title: Arts and Technology, Second International Conference, ArtsIT 2011, Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering (LNICST), Springer

Guldberg, K; Keay-Bright, W.; Parsons, S; Porayska-Pomsta, K; Kossyvaki, L; Mademtzi, M., Ewart-Dean, B. (2013) Shaping the future of technology use in the classroom. Autism Europe, Budapest, September 2013.

Keay-Bright, W. (2015) Amplifying Ability: Engaging Young People with Autism Spectrum Disorders through Gesture, Movement and Sound Technologies, in book series Games for Rehabilitation: Virtual Reality in Clinical Settings, Publisher: Springer

Kontogeorgakopoulos, A; Weschler, R; Keay-Bright, W. (2013) ed Kouroupetroglou, G Camera-Based Motion-Tracking and Performing Arts for Persons with Motor Disabilities and Autism, in Disability Informatics and Web Accessibility for Motor Limitations. IGI Global, USA

I have been an academic peer reviewer for the following conferences:
• CHI – Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2012-2014
• TOCHI – ACM Transactions on Computer Human Interaction 2012 -2014
• International Journal of Arts and Technology (IJART)
• Participatory Design (PD) Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)

Editorial Board Member:
• Journal of Assistive Technologies

Associate Editor:
• Design Principles and Practices
• Technology, Knowledge and Society
• Digital Arts and Culture


2015: Finalist for Social Accolades Award, Somability (result pending, June 2015)
2011: Winner of the Best Innovation in Inclusive Design: Include 2011 Awards,
Royal College of Art, UK
2007: Winner of the Design Principles and Practices International Award for Excellence in the Design field
2007: Winner of the Innovative New Forms of Socially Responsive Media category in the MIPDOC Content 360 competition at MipTV, Milia, Cannes, France
2007: Finalist of the Wales Leadership Awards Leadership in the Public Sector.
2006: Finalist of the Welsh Woman of the Year Awards: Woman in Science and Technology.
2006: Short-listed for the BECTA ICT Excellence Award Short-listed
2006: Winner of the S4C National Charity Awards Autism Cymru Wales Autism Award

Consultancy and Public Engagement

In the past 5 years I have delivered design workshops and consultancy promoting independence for peope with Learning Disabilities using a variety of affordable technologies.

Examples of seminars, workshops, presentations and consultancy in the UK include: Arts Council of Wales National Conference, BBC, Digital Innovation Week Wales, Sherman Theatre, Vision 21, Natiional Autistic Society, NASEN, Autism Cymru, Autism Europe, Autism Today, Hirstwood Training, Touch Trust, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Steljes, Smart Technologies, TagLearning.

International seminars, workshops and presentations include SCOPE Communication Resource Centre, Melbourne, Institute of Technology, Bombay, and the Department of Pediatrics, Xi’an People’s Hospital, China.

Consultancy focuses on local needs, always starting with existing materials and expertise. Each situation is unique, and sets out to maximise on discovering novel and useful ways for technology to compliment natural situations with the minimum demand on resources.