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In developing Soma onward from its prototype Figuring in 2018, we have taken further steps to explore individual experience and how that is shared. We have been working closely with visually impaired (VI) participant and dancer Holly Thomas to understand her experience of VR, supported by an Ideas Exchange fund from the Brigstow Institute and through this initiative we have been working with Ute Leonards, Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol, to further explore and understand Holly’s experience.

“To actually to be able to visually see this kind of movement and this depth of this object in space and then to be able to manipulate and see it coming towards and away from me and around me, I just thought that was amazing.”

– Holly Thomas

Holly Thomas’ positive experience with Soma suggests that carefully crafted immersive experiences combining dance-somatic practices and VR technologies will bring fundamental new insights into the mechanisms underlying embodied experiences for people with VI. Holly’s feedback revealed that the usual distracting flashing lights and light disturbances were reduced or disappeared, allowing Holly to visually experience depth and three dimensionality within the virtual space enhancing her embodied experience and movement responses within the space. Another visually-impaired participant experienced Soma and in her feedback she spoke about a diminished sense of her everyday experience of visual disturbances, and that the reduced and interactive visual input of the VR environment enhanced tactile sensations, the feeling of space, and induced an overall sensation of calmness.

“Those kind of subtle understandings about how you feel about your body felt very calming.”

– VI Participant

Watch a mini-documentary about Holly’s experience