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Case study: Clara Mancini

Clara Mancini, Researcher in Human/Animal-Computer Interaction

“I came to The Open University to do a PhD. My research field is interaction design. When I began, I was focusing on desktop applications – so, what happens on your screen, for example.

But subsequently I moved towards mobile computing, and then I realised that I did not want to be just focusing on humans, but I wanted to look at researching and designing computing technology for other animals, as well. And that’s when I set up the research agenda in animal-computer interaction.

The Open University believed in what I was trying to do, which not many other places would. They took a risk with me, and gave me the space and the time to develop this research agenda, even though it seemed a bit radical.

I’m hoping that my and my colleagues’ research will help us look at other animals in a different way. I hope they will help us realise that we live in a world where everyone is interconnected, and the wellbeing of one species depends on the wellbeing of other species.

We have so far developed already a number of technologies that, for example, make it easier for assistance dogs to help people with disabilities in physical tasks.

We have also developed technology to hep cancer detection dogs, which can improve the detection process.

And we are also developing technology, for example, to help diabetes-alert dogs call for help when their human partner becomes incapacitated.

My research has led, on the one hand, to the developing of technologies that can then be deployed in the real world, but it has also helped new students to come in, come on board and develop their own research into animal-computer interaction.

Being part of The Open University family and being able to develop my research in the area that I want has allowed me to make an intellectual dream come true.

I believe that through research was my way of changing the world.”

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