We catch up with Mishka Klotz – the Founder and Managing Director of OM interactive (OMi) – to discuss the background and driving forces behind the OMi interactive projector systems.
Pioneering Innovative Solutions
Mishka’s career to date has encompassed several different organisations – all of which have been focused on developing innovative products that solve specific problems. Since 1994 that passion for innovation has been focused on interactive lighting and projection systems – initially in the leisure and promotions sector.
But it was a chance encounter at an exhibition that was to change the direction of Mishka’s company and set him on the path towards using those systems for helping people with special needs. While demonstrating their product at a consumer electronics show in the mid-1990s, a group of adults with special needs reacted to the product in an astounding way.
On seeing these reactions and the obvious delight that could be generated through helping people engage with the system, Mishka revised his strategy and set about developing the system that forms the core of OMi’s offerings today. (Indeed, the company was the first in the world to introduce interactive floor projections to the special needs sector – back in 2007).
Motion-Activated Sensory Systems
OMi has a wide range of systems on offer – at the core of which are the omiVista Install (fixed projector system) and omiVista Mobii (mobile projector system – also known as the ‘Mobii Magic Surface’). Each of them is a motion-activated sensory system designed to engage and motivate people with cognitive, physical or sensory impairment.
Mishka describes the phrase ‘motion-activated’ as meaning that every movement over the projected surface produces a real-time change in the projected images and sounds. Unlike a touchscreen – which can be fiddly and difficult to use, especially for older people – the OMi motion-activated systems are very intuitive to use and recognise the smallest movements to produce an augmented response.
For example, you can wave your hand over a water effect to create waves and disperse the fish, or roll a rubber/stress ball across the surface to scatter the stars and reveal the Milky Way, plus many more possibilities.
The instant response of the system is often enthralling for the senses of the user and makes them want to engage for longer. Thus promoting a feel good factor while stimulating and motivating the user to engage their senses in a group setting, or individually.
Feedback and Research
There has been a lot of input from teachers, researchers, industry experts and specialist consultants that has gone into the development of the system as it is today. And the regular feedback that comes from users helps to refine and improve the system on an ongoing basis.
This means that each of the core elements of the system – the hardware, software, and app content – is being continually updated and improved upon for maximum effectiveness ‘in the field’. The basis for these improvements being grounded in a combination of academic and clinical recommendations, alongside the experience of actual end users.
As well as this, as part of their ongoing commitment to innovation, in 2018 OMi commissioned Care Research to undertake an 18 month independent research project to identify how the OMi mobile system (Mobii Magic Surface) is being used in residential care home settings; plus the impact it has on the people who use it.
The overall findings of this independent research have shown that the system was pivotal in encouraging movement, improving emotional wellbeing, helping with communication through reminiscence and nostalgia, and providing calming effects through sensory responses and interactions. (You can read more about the Care Research report at https://omi.uk/omi-mobii-research/).
Interactive Projector System
What you get with the omiVista interactive projector system is the projector unit and the ‘box of tricks’ that makes it all work. Plus it comes pre-loaded with 150+ customizable activities and games that can be navigated with the help of the easy to use remote control, allowing you to set different levels of difficulty to suit your audience.
It’s this interactivity that is at the heart of the system – leading to people being fully engaged with what they’re doing and thus enjoying it to a level they aren’t able to if simply consuming something passively, such as watching television.
Mishka himself has been brought to tears on occasion when he’s seen the delight and enthusiasm which people with special needs display while interacting with the omiVista system. On top of this, OMi have received countless messages of thanks from care home managers and special needs centre workers who have been amazed by the reaction of some of their residents and service users. In particular, older residents or teenagers who are usually withdrawn and non-communicative have been known to behave in a way they simply haven’t exhibited before.
Fixed or Mobile
The system comes in two versions – the fixed omiVista Install and the mobile omiVista Mobii. This provides for the greatest range of flexibility as either unit can be tailored to suit the circumstances of the environment in which it will be operating.
The fixed version has a projector that fits into the ceiling. Over the years the hardware has been refined and developed such that it will now fit flush to the ceiling – something that is unique to the omiVista – and takes up the same space as a standard ceiling tile.
The mobile version is electrically height adjustable, on wheels that can be easily manoeuvred into the most suitable position for the person or people using it. For example, the base can be slotted underneath someone’s bed in order for the projection to be made onto their duvet cover. Or it can be moved into the corner of a room out of the way of other activities, or made the centrepiece of a group activity for multiple users.
In-house Development in the UK
Mishka is proud of the fact that all the necessary development work for each element of the omiVista is designed and manufactured by their in-house team. This covers all the hardware for either the fixed or mobile systems, the software that drives the interactivity, and the content of the activities that people engage with.
And, though the system has a worldwide user-base and is currently in use in multiple countries, all the manufacturing is done here in the UK – helping to cement this country’s reputation as a leader in both technical innovation and the provision of support services for people with special needs.
Older People, Adults and Children with Special Needs
The largest group of users are residential care homes – the majority of which operate the mobile omiVista Mobii system. Other adults with special needs (such as those living with dementia) and children with special needs are also known to derive great benefit from interacting with the activities and games.
Mishka has obviously had many emotional experiences over the years from seeing the outstanding results of his decision to focus in this sector. Perhaps none more so than the company’s association with Noah Wall – a boy born with only 2% functioning brain tissue and paralysed from the chest down. Noah was first introduced to the wider public in the BBC series DIY SOS Big Build – during which an omiVista interactive projector was donated and installed for Noah to use. (You can read more about the remarkable improvements in Noah’s movement and mental capacity at: https://omi.uk/our-ambassador-noah-wall/).
When assessing a residential home, the CQC has a range of guidelines to follow. Some of these are to ensure that residents are engaged with activities and that their general wellbeing is being maintained. The omiVista is known to be very effective for both of these things, which can help the many care homes that use one in their quest to achieve high CQC ratings.
Perfect for All Situations – including the Covid Pandemic
As well as being a great way to keep people engaged and stimulated in ordinary circumstances, the Covid pandemic is a unique situation that really shows the value of having this type of system available within care homes.
With people being unable to leave the building, and little or no chance of visits from outdoors – whether relatives, friends, or external activity and entertainment providers – an interactive projector helps to keep care home residents stimulated both physically and mentally, while at the same time improving their social wellbeing.
On-Site and Video Demonstrations
Mishka and the team at OMi are keen for as many people as possible to benefit from the results that can be achieved through using the remarkable omiVista motion-activated interactive projector system. If you’re interested in finding out more for yourself, you can get in touch to arrange a demonstration via video or on-site.