Alert! Asteroid update heading your way!

As you all know, we recently attended the Great North Children’s Research Committee Conference, where we showed off the new updates for the Asteroid game! We are always thinking of ways to develop Asteroid for better accuracy and performance, and we presented our progress on this during the conference. We even won a prize as one of the best posters!

But before we all get too excited, let me explain how the new updates came about. As you probably know (depending on how much you enjoy reading these posts…) we regularly visit museums in and around Newcastle so that members of the public can have a play on Asteroid and our other vision-related games. More recently, we spent two fun-filled days at the Discovery Museum and the Centre for Life to promote and test our new updates. Here are a couple of pictures to show what we got up to:

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During our data collection in schools, we noticed that the younger ones found it a bit trickier to finish the game all the way to the end without any problems. So, as a team, we met together to think of ways to improve the game itself; a lot of tea and cake were involved. All that sugar propelled us to come up with some new ideas, which have since then been installed on to the tablet. Our friends at both FluidPixel and the computer sciences department here at Newcastle University did a great job of formulating and designing our ideas into a reality, and we can’t wait to see the impact it has for the game itself!

Without further ado, here are the new changes:


Shuffling Animation

Our participants are always super keen to finish the game once they have started, which is brilliant! But sometimes, this means that they press on the screen to enter their answer without pausing to look at the other options. To try and fix this, we designed a new ‘shuffling’ animation, so that each trial is separated by an animation of all four boxes being shuffled… just like a deck of cards! This will hopefully encourage our plays to pause before choosing an answer.





Non-3D Trials

During the beginning of the game, trials do not just show a 3D shape, but one with an extra clue: a different colour. However, we found that this can sometimes confuse participants, so that they look for a different colour on all the other trials too. To avoid this, we replaced colour cues with a frame cue which fades out as the trials go on, so that they know that they only need to look for the same shape in 3D, without needing to pay attention to the different colours on the screen.





Tablet Tilting

We noticed that the positioning of the tablet changes how clear the 3D image becomes, which makes it difficult for our participants to play the game. It is important to place the tablet parallel to the face to avoid this. By doing so, we are making sure that the game is working properly, and that it is indeed measuring what it needs to measure: the participant’s stereoacuity.





Now, we may be biased, but we think that these updates proved to be very promising! They reduced the amount of accidental presses, and encouraged the children to take their time. In any case, it didn’t affect how much fun children had while they played on Asteroid. There were definitely a lot of smiley faces all around!

That’s all from us for now. Until next time, m-eye friends!

Our trip to the GNCRCC


Hello everyone.

The RAs (Jess, Sheima, Carla and Therese) and our poster
The RAs (Jess, Sheima, Carla and Therese) and our poster

Well, Friday was an incredibly exciting day for the Asteroid team. Our wonderful research assistants (myself, Carla, Therese and Sheima) attended Great North Children’s Research Council Conference (or GNCRCC) at the Sage Gateshead. The day involved attending many interesting talks about involving the public and patients in research, as well as meeting other researchers and presenting our poster: ‘Participant Influence on the development of ASTEROID’. Here’s a little summary…

The beautiful Sage
The beautiful Sage

8.30am – We arrived, collected our GNCRCC packs and put up our poster for everyone to see. Then there was a little bit of time to quickly look around the Sage. What an incredible place! I feel very lucky to live in such a gorgeous part of the UK.

9am – The talks started. It was hard to pick our my favourite as everyone was so interesting; however a definite highlight has to be the YPAG (Young People’s Advisory Group) talk. One of their young members, Ria, gave a fantastic talk about some research that she had done in her school. As a qualified teacher, it makes me very happy to see young people being so confident and engaged in science. Well done Ria!

1pm – Lunch time! Well done to the Sage for organising such delicious food – and fantastic lunch time entertainment! Having heard a talk about the health benefits of singing, we were then treated to hearing the RVI choir sing some of their favourite songs.

My programme and lanyard for the day
My programme and lanyard for the day

1.30pm – Back to the afternoon talks. It was inspiring to hear about all the fantastic work that is helping improve the lives of people.

3.45pm – The winners of the poster prizes were announced… I could not have been more surprised to hear my own name being read out along with the title of our poster. We had won! Shocked and flustered, I squeezed past the rest of my row and hurried up on to the stage to collect our prize.

We won! :)
We won! 🙂

4pm – A final chance to look at the posters, chat to everyone else at the conference – and celebrate our win! A lovely end to a wonderful day.

The eye-mazing Research Assistants

Whey-EYE man! Welcome to another blog from the Asteroid Team.

As we sift through our data collection, we have finally found some time to introduce ourselves! We have visited so many schools in Newcastle, and many of you might be wondering, “I had a great time learning and playing on Asteroid, but who were those lovely ladies giving out lots of stickers and certificates?”. Well, wonder no more! Here are the Asteroid Research Assistants (RA’s):

RA #1 Carla F. Black

Favourite Asteroid game: Football planet – I’ve always been a football fan!

Favourite food: Pasta Bolognese – I had to give that answer, being half-Italian!

Favourite animal: Possibly baby meerkats (for the cuteness factor)

Hi everyone! As part of the Asteroid team, I am thoroughly enjoying working alongside my friendly, knowledgeable colleagues on such a worthwhile vision project and engaging young children in science.

On each visit we make to schools, nurseries and museums around the region, we are greeted by wonderful and enthusiastic children, keen to try out our eye games. And as a mum to two wonderful sons (aged 5 and 2), being out on these visits certainly feels like home from home to me.

Being from a science background originally (I worked as an optometrist before moving into finance and then having my children), it is also really rewarding to see the children we work with finding science so fun and interesting.

Away from work, my hobbies nowadays tend to be taking my sons to theirs  (e.g. swimming, sports or toddler groups, days out to the beach or park in all weathers) and spending time with family and friends.

Look out for “Team Asteroid” at a museum, school or nursery near you, soon… look forward to hopefully meeting you then.

RA #2 Jess G. Hugill

Favourite Asteroid game: Chicken farm (of course!)

Favourite food: So hard to choose! Probably a nice cheesy pasta… or pizza… or chocolate…

Favourite animal: Probably cats – especially my big fluffy cat called Salem!

H-eye there everyone! It has been so brilliant to be a part of the Asteroid team the last few months. Who knew that there was a job that involved being able to travel around Newcastle, meeting amazing kids and playing eye games every day?! I definitely feel very lucky! Before I started this job, I worked as a teacher (I know…sorry!) I then went back to Uni to get my Masters in Psychology but I really missed working with kids every day, so it is a dream to have found a job that fits both of my interests. When I’m not at work I love to run, ski, cycle and (most importantly) EAT! Luckily for me, my lovely Research Assistant buddies share my love of food. We even sometimes treat ourselves to cake after a hard day of work!

RA #3 Therese P. Casanova    

Favourite Asteroid Game: Shape World

Favourite food: Today it’s lasagne. Ask me again tomorrow!

Favourite animal: Penguins. They are always planning something…

It is so great to be part of the ASTEROID project, as well as to be part of a fabulous team of Research Assistants to collect data from great schools in and around Newcastle. Every school we have visited has been so welcoming to us, and every child has been pleasure to work with! Now, a little bit about me… I finished my undergraduate degree in Applied Psychology from Durham University in 2012, and I am now almost to the end of my Master’s degree in Health Psychology (gulp!). I have had plenty of experience working with younger people – I have worked as an administrative assistant and as a tutor in schools before. My hobbies are what you would call eclectic. I like to read, play badminton, and to sing. I have recently gotten into swimming, as I thought it was about time that I learn how to!

RA #4 Sheima K. Rafiq 

Favourite Asteroid game: Shape World (nothing beats Mr Square’s birthday party!)

Favourite food: Rice – in all shapes and forms. Oh and watermelon 🙂

Favourite animal: Penguins as they are cool, cute and can swim in the sea – I love the sea

Heyyy everyone! It has been a wonderful experience testing so many of you in schools, nurseries and at various museums. I hope you had as much fun as we did. Prior to this job, I worked as an Orthoptist testing children and adults in the eye clinic in hospital. An Orthoptist is a special eye person that looks at your eyes carefully to ensure they are working well together as they should be, sometimes Orthoptists might prescribe patching to help your vision and use fun pictures and cool prisms and funky glasses to test your eyes. You might see a few in your school soon. Now, with the boring bit over, a little about me… I love to read books, paint canvases and I enjoy baking cakes (and eating them of course). I speak 3 languages plus a little bit of Danish as I was born in Copenhagen – the capital of Denmark which houses the famous little mermaid statue and offers the most delicious pastries. Yumm.

Research Assistants, left to right: Jessica, Sheima, Carla, Therese

We hope you enjoyed learning a bit about us! Stayed tuned and watch this space for more of our blogs from #TeamASTEROID