Today Andrew and I took a Beamz up to the Dales School in Morton-on-Swale to see how accessible it would be to the children. It was used across the day as one of several instruments available to the groups during their weekly music sessions. The controller was used with the Beamz software (Education and Healthcare version) running on an Apple Mac with its own set of speakers.
Many of the less able children had difficulty in accessing the controller. We also found that some of the children tended to grab the plastic uprights, pulling the lasers out of alignment and causing the sounds to trigger. Curious fingers also found the buttons that changed sound settings and backing tracks, causing a few startling changes.
One of the children who did responded very well to the Beamz is shown in the video below. This was his very first encounter and, despite feeling unwell on the day we visited, he was clearly interested, focused and engaged.
You can see he responds to the nature of the music physically – delicate movements of fingers mimicking the piano and rocking to and fro. He quickly understands that he can use both hands together or independently. He looks to his left hand and appears to make a connection between the movement and the sound – although on watching the video, one could reasonably suspect that his eye is simply caught by the red laser lighting up his hand.
So a successful first session for the Beamz with a couple of children. This reflects what we’ve often said about assistive music technology in that one device will not suit everyone.