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Why would you use PEARL? Why should you?

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

An image of an internal space, with a building with windows to the rear, which is named "Groove"
The Space and Groove inside PEARL.The Space is the size of a football field and three storeys high, but we can create tiny as well as huge environments inside... (Image: Timothy Soar)

Why would you use PEARL?

It is easy to think of PEARL as a massive building with lots of exciting kit inside - but why would you ever want to use it? You might be a town planner or urban designer, or perhaps an architect. What would PEARL do for you? After all we have had cities for over 8,000 years and PEARL has only been around for two. Cities have managed pretty well for a very long time, so what is it that PEARL offers that could make the step change needed to attain your Vision? Similarly, you might be a psychologist, neuroscientist, ophthalmologist, audiologist, psychiatrist. How can PEARL help you move your field forward, when you have your own amazing equipment and facilities dedicated to your science? You might be an artist, dramatist, musician, or poet. What possible relevance might a building have for your creativity?

Well, PEARL is much more than just the big building and smart kit. It is a philosophy, an idea, a way of thinking. It challenges everyone to engage that idea with their own world.

Here is an example of what I mean. It relates to the challenges posed by the increasing presence of extremely quiet hard-to-see electric scooters in urban spaces.

Want an alert sound? We were asked to produce one for the e-scooters in London. In PEARL, we started by asking why we have hearing at all, then how does it work to have provided us with the answer to that question over the past several millennia, and so successfully contributed to the survival of the species. This led us to create a sound that has characteristics that work specifically with that evolutionary result, but within the modern urban environment (for which we have not yet evolved). Instead of ending up with yet another noise - like all the other beeps, whistles and sirens that warn us about our dangerous environment - we arrived at a sound that triggers the internal nervous system to respond as it was intended to do for survival, so that it alerts the vision system, and you feel less shocked when an e-scooter appears. This sound was crafted with all the precision of a musician playing in a symphony orchestra, and tested with the urban environment with people with different vision, hearing and other sensitivities. We used (amongst other technologies) brain scanners for this so that we could check how the brain responded to the sounds in real time. What we did was to compose a performance that engages the preconscious brain to help us understand the world a bit better.

Of course we used PEARL and its kit to carry out this work, but the key component is the thinking that underpins the way we perceived the problem, how we stimulated the thinking to create the idea that would lead to an answer to the question we were being posed. Then we have PEARL so that we can do the necessary deep-dive practical research experiments to test how that idea could be brought to fruition, and to create a practical answer to the challenge.

Why should you use PEARL?

Many of the problems and challenges being faced by people in urban places have been with us for some time or have been generated by the introduction of new technology or ways of working. All are associated to the ways in which people respond and react to these environments. In the past, brilliant researchers, designers, artists, scientists and engineers have been working on these problems, but usually in isolation of each other. So there have been fantastic solutions that work amazingly well in one aspect but generate problems in others: the car is a good example of this kind of two-faced problem. In PEARL we bring all these disciplines, technologies, techniques, ways of thinking, creativity and ideas into the way we approach the challenges we are posed with. But more than any of these we bring our open mind to craft the visionary pathway towards your challenge, providing early innovative and creative steps forward so that you can generate the outcomes you need. So you should talk to us about using PEARL when you have a challenge involving people in any environment where a new look at how they perceive the world might reveal a different way for you to address it.

Come and have a chat!

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