Math Game Prototyping Project

Digital game forms are increasingly used in educational contexts, and the potential of digital games to create significant learning impact is a huge growth area internationally. This project seeks to broker relationships in building game-driven learning tools to support math curricula in a network of interest across academic and private sector partners. As an approach for design research the design and development of games is recognized as offering a constructionist approach to creating new models for learning.

The objectives of this project are to formalize an existing relationship into a more closely framed collaboration and grant submission between project partners. The Math Games Project supports the start of an ongoing and larger research project. In interdisciplinary design teams, the students from OCAD U’s Game Design class were presented with the challenge of conceiving and developing a complete growth plan for virtual math games. The games would be built for mobile consoles (iPhone, Java-based phones) and for young students. The games considered the growing presence of technology in the educational environment and the potential to foster young students’ positive reception of math.

Project partners have committed resources in kind to this project e.g. JumpMath to provide subject expertise, content and context and pedagogic and cognitive expertise coming from The Hospital for Sick Kids (see below).


  • Build on existing expertise at OCAD for development of games and of mobile applications (iPhone, Java-based phones) through the collaboration between GamePlay Lab (Westecott)and Mobile Lab (Davila) at OCAD
  • Collaborate with University of Waterloo in researching user interaction with various game platforms, game play, and/or theming.
  • Engage broader base of partners in detailed scoping exercise.
  • The creation of an online resource of both relevant research and design material to seed future projects


  • Prototypes developed will be introduced to various elementary school classes.
  • Foster a working relationship with industry partners.
  • Feedback from the classes will be tracked by the Human Factors researchers at University of Waterloo.
  • Engage existing OCAD students in design process.

Background & Context

This funding will help the OCAD team collaborate and contribute to an interactive math pedagogy research initiative being developed with JumpMath (John Mighton).

This initiative seeks to find ways of creating engaging courses for students struggling with math in elementary school, high school and college as well as users outside of an educational context who wish to improve math skills. It involves a two-pronged approach that will translate existing curriculum, exercises, and workbooks developed by JumpMath as well as create new game modules that further a student's math learning outside of class time.

The project received early funding from the Corus Seed Grant, and will seek for continued funding from a variety of sources including SSHRC, NSERC and OCE.

Prototype Math Games

Images from OCAD U’s Game Design class
Image from OCAD U’s Game Design class
Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 8:15pm

Feminists in Games (FIG)

Feminists in Games (FiG) is a SSHRC-funded network development grant in partnership with Dr Jennifer Jenson at York University. The purpose of the project is to gather an international research association of digital media researchers to better understand the origins and consequences of the gendered digital divide and intervene in its reproduction.

OCAD University Graduate Researcher Madeline Ashby is funded to produce research for distribution by FiG. For Great Justice is a manual for feminist activism in the video game culture, community, and industry. It chronicles and examines successful strategies for activism, including examples from Occupy Wall Street, the Riot Grrls, Pussy Riot, and others. It models these movements and highlights the most effective traits of each. It then advises on strategies for activism and agency within online gaming communities and corporate video game development environments. With these strategies in place, individuals and communities can work more effectively for gender justice at work, at home, and at play.

FiG has funded 5 proposals for projects to receive incubator funding listed at and Emma Westecott from OCADU will mentor the PsXXY¥borg (pro­nounced “cyborg”) project with game artist Hannah Epstein.


Materials and publications reviewed and created over the course of this project will be collected in the library of a group on the academic social bookmarking service zotero.

Reflections on research will be gathered on Tumblr for easy access, populated with links of interest and lengthier reflections on the design of compelling information interfaces.

Project Deliverable Downloads:

In development.

Project blog:

Poster with blue bands for the event
Monday, September 10, 2012 - 7:15pm
Lab Member: 
Madeline Ashby


This SSHRC Partnership Development Grant examines novel forms of cross-disciplinary and cross-sector partnerships necessary for creating world class academic research on digital media. It also intends to provide novel insight for private industry and for commercialization, as well as new venues for the innovative work of artistic and cultural organizations. This research partnership develops a digital economy trading zone that connects the diverse interests, knowledge and values from a diverse set of partners. Its focus is on a developing aspect of digital media, namely, the increasing materialization of digital media and the related interweaving of physical and virtual modes of engagement. The project therefore brings together working groups in order to develop concrete projects that provide value to each of these groups. The three groups include members from academic institutions, cultural organizations, and private SMEs, and are organized around the following inter-related themes; Space, Play, and the Self.

The grant includes as co-applicants, Professor Sara Grimes from the Faculty of Information, Professor Megan Boler from OISE, and Professor Mary-Lou Lobsinger from the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto, as well as Professors Kate Hartmanand Professor Emma Westecott from OCAD University, and Professor Jason Nolan from Ryerson University. The project runs for three years and primarily provides salaries and stipends for masters and PhD students.


IOT Theme # 2 - Play

In this working group, we will explore how digital games and other play technologies enable multi- modal practices that traverse and integrate the virtual and the material in a variety of ways. Examples of this include the production of tangible “ludic artifacts” (Tolino, 2009), the interplay of situated and digital practices within mobile gaming, the phenomenon of alternate reality games (ARG), and the incorporation of physical motion within kinetic game systems (such as Wii Sports). With the rise and spread of pervasive gaming and portable devices, digital play becomes resituated as a transitory, in- between and oftentimes liminal activity, as play is reintroduced into a broader range of the spaces and activities of everyday life. Our academic team includes Sara Grimes, an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Information who has published extensively on the political economy of games and game play, Associate Professor Jason Nolan who runs the EDGE gaming lab at Ryerson University, and collaborator Emma Westcott, an assistant professor at OCAD. Game developers Play Dynamics Inc. and HugeMonster are our private partners.

Sunday, August 19, 2012 - 7:15pm

2013 Common Pulse Symposium

Looking at Art and Disability Differently Disability gives us unique voices and diverse perspectives, the very core of what we expect art to bring to our lives, challenging us, individually and collectively, to expand the way we think about the world and the people we share it with. Disability creates a range of often enriching experiences from which artists make work that is interesting, meaningful, and important and that leads to new insights for both the artist and the viewer. Hearing, seeing and understanding the viewpoint of others is how we grow as individuals and how we progress as a society.

Throughout September 2013, artists working a variety of media will be visiting, performing and exhibiting in Durham as part of the Common Pulse Intersecting Abilities Festival. The festival is celebrating the connections between art and ability and examines alternative approaches to understanding perception and cognition in the practice of artists, particularly artists who address diverse and different abilities and their related experiences.

Hosted by the Durham Art Gallery and organized in collaboration with OCAD University, Common Pulse brings together artists, community groups, researchers and activists to celebrate inclusiveness, accessibility, cultural diversity and artistic excellence.

Artists and Researchers Discuss Art and Disability

The coupling of disability art with emerging research practices allows for a comparison of the values of embodied experience in academic and studio-based activities and a new formulation of their intersection. The hybrid work being done by practitioners, both artists and researchers, describes a further shift away from the centre towards inclusive and experiential processes and results. Methodologies are likewise being expanded that transform the functions of research in ways that makes it more responsive to the complexities of the subject: This fusion of research and creation is evident in the work being done in the fields of art production, Disability Studies and Disability Art and Culture by all of the participants invited to this symposium. Their contributions to the dialogue will address the applicability of a research/creation model in the ongoing effort to bring more light and understanding to our evolving conception of disability and the contributions that disability culture brings to society generally.


Amanda Cachia, Independent Curator
Emily Cook, OCAD University
Nancy Davis Halifax, Graduate Program in Critical Disability Studies, York University
Michele Decottignies, Stage Left Productions
Jay Dolmage, Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, University of Waterloo
Deborah Fels, Ryerson University
Ju Gosling, Together! Disability Arts and Human Rights Festival
Grahame Lynch, Ryerson University
Geoff McMurchy, Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture Festival, Founder
Geoffrey Shea, OCAD University
Judith Snow, Laser Eagles Art Guild, Founder
Janis Timm-Bottos, Creative Arts Therapies, Concordia University
Jutta Treviranus, Inclusive Design, OCAD University

More details:

Event Logo
Thursday, July 25, 2013 - 4:15pm

Common Pulse Symposium 2011

A partnership between OCAD University and the Durham Art Gallery, COMMON PULSE created a forum for presentations and discussion during a three-day symposium. Twelve artists and curators were invited to present their experience creating work in the context of university research. These presentations sparked a dialogue among all of the participants which examined current developments in digital media production and consumption within contemporary art practice and how they predict, reflect or refute parallel media phenomena within North American culture in general. We looked at societal shifts in authorship brought about by file-sharing, sampling and the open source movement, as well as collaborative initiatives sparked by mobile media such as citizen journalism, wiki culture and flash mobs. In each model of research-informed, digital media art practice, the flow back and forth between analysis and production is strongest and most focused in the artist-led research labs of the symposium contributors



Common Pulse Transcripts
Proceedings from the Symposium

The Common Pulse Symposium brought together twelve prominent media artists to discuss their approaches to four issues:

  • Social Authorship: Where do Ideas Come From?
  • Digital Identity: The Public Self
  • Users and Viewers: The Role of Participation
  • The Artist in the Research Lab

This book presents the contributors speaking about art, interactivity, media and the shifting landscape of Canadian culture: David Clark, Brooke Singer, Marcel O'Gorman, Jim Ruxton, Martha Ladly, Michelle Kasprzak, Jason Edward Lewis, Jean Bridge, Steve Daniels, David Jhave Johnston and Jessica Antonio Lomanowska. Edited by Geoffrey Shea.

Get it on Amazon - or - Download PDF

Common Pulse Website

People sitting around a table at a conference
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - 4:30pm
Lab Member: 
Geoffrey Shea
Ilse Gassinger
Martha Ladly
Rita Camacho
Justine Smith
Nell Chitty

Fetal Alcohol Visualizing

Working with large sets of intricate and comprehensive data, this research takes a highly interdisciplinary approach to dissecting the discourses that surround fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Novel correlations across data collected from stakeholder groups, derived using advanced visual analytics tools, help to better inform new strategies for communicating FASD. The interdisciplinary approach to this project grants the researchers with the ability to employ creative methods of study; the design of striking infographics and innovative simulation technologies will serve the production of provocative public performance in an effort to refresh the dialogue on FASD.


Red and green DNA testing visualization
Friday, April 12, 2013 - 3:30pm
Lab Member: 
Paula Gardner
Patricio Davila
Lawrence Kwok
Tim Bettridge
Maggie Chan
Marjan Verstappen
Harjot Bal
Shuting Chang

Art and Ability: Cardinal

This project begins to examine the special physical needs of individuals with complex disabilities through the lens of their artistic and expressive needs. It proposes to develop and incorporate an art/research methodology, including stages of creation and analysis of prototypical tools to address these overlapping needs of the participants. It is anticipated that these newly developed tools will have potential benefits for a broader spectrum of the user’s needs, as well as for other users with or without disabilities. This iterative inquiry will take the form of collaborative art creation sessions involving both researcher/artists and participant/artists with severe physical disabilities. Analysis of the impediments to these exercises in self expression will guide the rapid development of new, prototypical, art making tools, techniques or materials. At the conclusion of the research, we will examine the effectiveness of the art/research methodology in refining and addressing the emerging research question of how communication models can be developed and employed for artistic expression by individuals with disabilities, and how they can be applied to their other communication needs.

Cardinal: Eye Gesture Screenless Communication System

Several observations of current eye-gaze and eye-gesture systems point towards the potential benefits of a low strain,computer-assisted, natural tool for users with eye control as their primary means of communicating.

The three existing systems include early Bliss boards, myTobii computers and the Eye Writer. These are the salient features of each:

The Bliss board was a physical tool that allowed a trained user to communicate with a trained “listener” through eye gestures. A 2-3 foot square sheet of clear Plexiglas had the centre cut out, leaving a frame about 6 inches wide. The two conversants would face each other. The square grid around the frame contained cells with a square grid of alphabetic characters. I.e. the top left cell might contain the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, arranged in a grid. The user would use a two-gesture glance to instruct the listener about the letter choice. Up and to the right, followed by up and to the left might combine to signify the upper right letter in the upper left square.

Two features stand out with this system. First, the goal of communicating with a listener is enhanced by having the face-to-face view of the conversants uninterrupted. I.e. they look at each other through the large hole in the centre of the board and glance to the edges of their field of gaze to signal alphabetic letters. Second, once both users have become accustomed to the system, the board itself can be removed and the pattern of eye gestures can still be interpreted.

In its early usage, the communicator is might look at the squares in question, but later they just gesture towards the squares, whether they are physically there or not. This sparks a differentiation between eye-gaze (looking) and eye-gesture (glancing).

The myTobii uses infrared cameras to track the communicators gaze, and maps it to a flexible set of on-screen buttons. The camera and motion tracking software create a very workable tool. Unfortunately the computer screen must constantly be the focus of the communicators gaze, and effectively becomes a barrier between the conversants. In theory, the cameras could track eye gestures that go beyond the edges of the screen. A “pause” feature used to be activated by glancing down beyond the bottom edge of the screen, although that feature seems to be gone.

The Eye Writer glasses uses an eye tracking system that is not linked to a particular on-screen representation. In its fist instantiation it was used with an onscreen software program to facilitate graffiti tagging, but the glasses themselves (the input device) are not linked to any screen, the way the myTobii is.

The synthesis of these systems suggests a model in which a user could use their eyes to gesture towards abstract referents – hypothetical buttons which exist outside of the field of attention. So a user might look at a conversation partner and then glance left and right, which would be interpreted by a computer vision system as the letter D. Right and left might be O. Up and left might be G. But because the communicator never attends to an onscreen representation, they are able to assess the impact of what they are saying, word by word, as we do in normal speech. Rather than having to type out an entire phrase (while ignoring the conversation partner) and then playing it back, with a highly intermediated effect.

In the first test, the object of attention (a Google map) is situated in the middle of the screen, where the user can study it at will without triggering any buttons (which would be the case with the myTobii system). Glancing towards any edge causes the map to scroll in that direction. Glances are triggered by a “mouse-over” effect, which does not require the user to look at, pause on, or otherwise fixate on a button. A simple glance suffices.

A subsequent instantiation will allow the user to wear EyeWriter glasses and look at a physical symbol board to spell words. After rudimentary training, we will test if the user can continue to spell by glancing with their eyes, without the presence of the board.

Further open source software and hardware models will explore if there is a sub-$100 device which could be produced to facilitate communication (and control) without the presence of a computer screen.


Publications & Presentations

Alexandra Haagaard, Geoffrey Shea, Nell Chitty, Tahireh Lal. Cardinal: Typing with Low-Specificity Eye Gestures and Velocity Detection. International Workshop on Pervasive Eye Tracking and Mobile Eye-Based Interaction, Sweden, 2013. (under review)

Geoffrey Shea, Nell Chitty, Alexandra Haagaard, Tahireh Lal. Cardinal: An Eye Gesture Based Communication System. Best Poster Award: Eye Tracking Conference on Behavioral Research, Boston, 2013.

Geoffrey Shea, Nell Chitty, Alexandra Haagaard, Tahireh Lal. Cardinal: An Eye Gesture Based Communication System. Demo and Talk: Disrupting Undoing: Constructs of Disability, Toronto, 2013.

Shea, G. and A. Haagaard. Artists Reflecting on Their Practice and Disability, Ethnographica Journal on Culture and Disability, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, (under review).

Shea, G., Understanding the Work of Artists with Diverse Abilities: Applying Art, Design, Ethnography and Computer Science. Research Rendezvous, OCAD University, Toronto, 2012.

Shea, G., Art and Disability Research. A presentation to the Doctoral Program at SmartLab, Dublin, 2012.

Image of an ear
Text about the readers
Image showing poducts
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - 4:30pm
Lab Member: 
Geoffrey Shea
Alexandra Haagaard
Tahireh Lal

Art and Interactive Projections: ScreenPlay

ScrrenPlay was developed by Professor Elaine Biddiss, core faculty in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and Scientist at the Bloorview Research Institute, together with a group of design students from OCAD University led by Professor Geoffrey Shea. The installation consists of a pressure-sensitive floor comprised of 100 tiles. Calibrated from the microcontroller switches in the tiles, information is fed to a computer which then applies corresponding images to a glass wall from a ceiling-mounted projector. Anyone standing or sitting on the tiles can create elaborate, moving landscapes from the three rotating design motifs: flowers and bubbles, a forest blooming from a geometric grid, and abstract vines and patterns.

Image of a person being pushed in a wheel chair in front of a blue background
Saturday, February 23, 2013 - 4:30pm
Lab Member: 
Adam Oliver
Alan Lau
Dave Dowhaniuk
Jenifer Harrison
Josh Nelson
Ken Leung
Lucian Timofte
Luodan Xu
Maggie Chiu
Yee Chan
Monserrat Rivera
Stewart Shum

Body Editing

Body Editing is a gesture and biosensor platform that returns feedback (in the form of music, sound and visuals) to users. Users can move, gesture or provide biometric data, for example, to paint a picture, form a fractal, create a sound scape or musical composition. It explores the relationship between the experience of movement, of biodata, and the generative production of data aesthetics. In this installation, users are tracked in the installation space, and as well, passersby are captured by a motion capture camera to contribute to the feedback; together they create a layered data visualization experience. 


Person waving their arms interacting with the work
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - 4:00pm
Lab Member: 
Paula Gardner
Hart Sturgeon
Katherine Meyer
Andrew Hicks