A high tech wristband is helping care home residents make music with a world class orchestra as part of a ground-breaking trial.
The residents of Pendine Park in Wrexham have teamed up with the Hallé orchestra to develop the electronic kit with engineering graduates from Siemens, Europe’s largest industrial manufacturing company. Siemens is a major sponsor of the Hallé.
The aim of the project is to see how technology can be used to improve lives of people in care homes through music.
It’s all come together because of the long-term partnership between arts-loving Pendine Park and the Hallé and their partners, Siemens.
Steve Pickett, the Hallé’s Education Director, said: “The orchestra works closely with all our sponsors and explained to the graduates how we work with Pendine Park Care Organisation in taking music and the arts into care homes.
“The graduates have written special software for a piece of kit called Myo that means it can be worn on the wrist and respond to movement.
“It allows residents, even those with severe disabilities to make their own music or play along with Hallé musicians both to accompany songs and popular tunes. It can also be used in a creative capacity.
“The wristband creates different musical effects in line with the movement it detects. Basically it always knows where it is in space and the movement it detects is turned into musical notes.
“This an amazing piece of technology that has so many options and uses, it will be an amazing instrument in particular when it comes to dementia patients. It really is an exciting development that has huge potential.”
He added: “We have so far concentrated on making percussion sounds and are trialling the Myo in workshops at several Pendine Park care homes.
“Potentially, we could make the sound of any instrument and build an orchestra with all the sound coming from the movement of the Myo on the wrists of residents. I’m so excited by the whole concept.
“The reaction from residents and Pendine Park staff has been very positive. The graduates are still fine tuning the software but clearly this technology works.
“The potential for care homes is huge. The Hallé has a near decade association with Pendine Park.
“We have developed a very holistic relationship with residents and staff. The care organisation has embraced the arts and the effect it can have on the wellbeing of residents through positive participation.”
Siemens graduate Megan Lovett, 24, who hails from Rhuddlan and now lives in Manchester, acted as project manager.
The former Lancaster University student who achieved a Master’s degree in sustainable engineering, said: “We looked at the Myo and how we could use it. We decided it was more about what Pendine Park care home residents could do and not what they couldn’t do.
“We wrote the software so the slightest movement creates music. Once residents realise they are creating music by moving the wristband and they are actually in control of what sound is being produced they become very excited.
“They set the pace and beat of the music and the Hallé musicians then play along. Of course they can use the Myo when they are on their own or in a group.
“The potential is huge and it’s having such an impact within Pendine Park care homes I can only see it being a success.”
She added: “Technically the Myo contains gyroscopes and accelerometers that detect movement within 3-D space. The programme we adapted through our script means it converts that movement into music.
“It has taken us eight months to get to where we are and, although there are some teething issues, I’m delighted with how the project has worked.”
Project engineer Ben Caley, 23, said: “It allows residents, even those with severe disabilities to make their own music or play along with Hallé musicians says the Myo has huge potential.
He said: “I’ve witnessed the delight of residents. One woman, who apparently rarely joins in music sessions, tried the device and became very excited claiming it was magic.
“All three of us on the Seimens graduate scheme have a relationship with the Halle Orchestra and have worked with them in the past. We looked at how we could collaborate and come up with some technology that could improve the lives of people as per our brief.
“We looked at the Halle’s relationship with Pendine Park care organisation and went along to music therapy sessions to get a feel for how we could potentially help.
“We noticed residents really enjoyed the sessions but couldn’t get actively involved or participate due to their individual conditions and medical issues. We wanted to make music accessible to all.
“The Myo hasn’t a function on its own it’s the software we have written that has allowed us to develop it.
“People have come up with all sorts of other ideas and adapted Myo’s in very different ways. We have simply come up with a concept, it’s still rough around the edges but there is proof of concept there for all to see.”
Pendine Park’s consultant artist-in-residence was delighted with how things were going.
She said: “As part of our enrichment programme we have worked with the Hallé for almost a decade now. We were looking at how residents could access instruments and get involved with the Halle musicians.
“I met with the Hallé and Seimens to discuss how they could best develop a prototype that would best suit the many different clients groups at Pendine Park, something that would suit all abilities and ages.
“It had to be something safe and easy to use and eventually the graduates came up with the Myo. The team have done an amazing job and what they have produced has massive potential for the care sector.”
She added: “We are privileged here at Pendine Park to be here right at the start and to help tailor the Myo for people of all ages and abilities.”