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Pedestrian Accessibility Movement Environment Laboratory (PAMELA)

PAMELA is a multisensory laboratory for the assessment of pedestrian movement.

An experiment at UCL's Pedestrian Accessibility Movement Environment Laboratory (PAMELA) . 

About

PAMELA - the Pedestrian Accessibility Movement Environment Laboratory - is a 1:1 scale multisensorial environment for testing people's interactions with their surroundings.

PAMELA's modular platform can be adjusted to simulate different surface profiles and types. It consists of 36 modules (1.2m x 1.2m) with interchangeable surfaces. Each module can slope in any direction, up to a maximum of 20%. Street furniture, such as obstacles and amenities, can be arranged on the platform with carefully designed lighting to simulate conditions from daylight to darkness. Surround sound also allows noises to be included - e.g. trains passing through stations, or announcements. 

PAMELA's flexibility enables us to test combinations of defined street environments and the range of capabilities of pedestrians, wheelchair and scooter users, allowing us to test existing and proposed street layouts.

We aim to provide a better understanding of how design details affect people's ability to move around the static environment. We work with urban designers, city planners, physio and occupational therapists, clinicians, clinical and medical researchers, geriatricians, neurologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, architects, biologists, ophthalmologist and orthopaedic professionals, in order to work out how to make the environment accessible for the population as a whole. Working with such colleagues enables us to explore issues and study interdisciplinary science in a life-sized multisensory laboratory, which offers a realistic environment and almost total control for the experimenter.

The PAMELA laboratory is located in Tufnell Park, London.


People

PAMELA is part of CEGE's Accessibility Research Group. The following academics use the PAMELA laboratory for their research:

PAMELA projects

AMPERE 

£2.4 million upgrading project for PAMELA to improve facilities and maintain core staff. It means we are now quicker and more efficient, allowing us to tackle more projects more quickly.

COMET 

The Community-based Open Mapping to Enhance Travel (COMET) brings together strands of research from mapping, social networking and biomechanics.

Design of the ‘New Tube for London’

LUL funded work on the detailed person-centred design of the New Tube for London.

Detection of changes in the footway surface

PhD research on how people detect changes in surface type and level of footway surface.

Evaluation of the impacts of different lighting on young people with autism 

PhD research studying how young people with autism respond differently to different colours of light.

Evaluation of outcomes of a gene therapy intervention for Léber’s condition 

Running ongoing before-and-after tests of patients, for the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology

Low vision at night 

Royal Society funded collaborative project with the Hyogo Institute, Osaka, Japan.

Passenger boarding/alighting in congested stations 

Testing boarding/alighting patterns on trains and platforms for Network Rail. 

People falling over in buses

PhD research to discover the effects of changing rates of acceleration on the stability of passengers as they move around a bus whilst it is in motion.

Peripheral vision 

PhD research on the contribution of peripheral vision to the perception of the built environment.

PICAV 

€7 million EU FP7. The aim of the Personal Intelligent City Accessible Vehicle (PICAV) project is to design and develop a prototype of a next-generation mobility vehicle which will share the pedestrian space. How a PICAV and other mobility scooters interact with pedestrians is being tested at PAMELA as part of the project: www.picav.eu 

Seeing what they see

ESRC/NIHR funded research on how people with dementia see and navigate around the environment.

Shared space: delineators for visually-impaired people 

Testing methods to indicate different zones in a shared space level surface environment. 

Testing different types of footway surfaces

Marie Curie PhD research to see if different types of footway surface might help to reduce the number of falls in the street, and the impact of falls that do occur.

Testing of gene replacement therapy

Research undertaken with the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology to test the impact of this treatment in terms of how patients' interactions with the environment might be improved as a result.

Other short projects
  • Empirical evaluation of door-open times for high demand rail systems
  • Empirical evaluation of wheelchair access to deep-tube trains (for Tubelines Ltd)
  • Evaluation of platform humps in London Underground (for London Underground Ltd)
  • Empirical measurement of passenger movements on trains (for the UK Government Department of Transport) – now implemented in worldwide procurements of train vehicles
  • Empirical input to design of buses for Transantiago bus rapid transit system (for Universidad de los Andes, Santiago)
  • Empirical evidence in relation to delineators for visually-impaired and mobility-restricted people in shared-space environments (for Transport for London)
  • Effects of mobile phone use on pedestrians Cost-benefit
  • Evaluation of accessibility enhancements on metro trains
PEARL

In 2018 we were awarded £47M to expand PAMELA into a new much larger facility called PEARL - the Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory, due to open in east London in Spring 2021. Please visit our PEARL page for further details.


Equipment 

The concept of PAMELA is to have a pedestrian space which is fully configurable so that real-world conditions can be replicated in controlled setting.  The centre point of this concept is the PAMELA platform. Its construction has undergone a couple of iterations, all funded by the EPSRC.

PAMELA movable platform for accessibility experiments

It consists of 58 modules which are 1.2m x 1.2m, wirelessly controlled, and with interchangeable surfaces. Each module can slope in any direction, up to a maximum of 20%. Street furniture, such as obstacles and amenities, can be arranged on the platform with carefully designed lighting to simulate conditions from daylight to darkness.

Sound system

The PAMELA sound system provides ambient noise effects through sophisticated phase array speakers and localised sounds, using a set of smaller speakers which can be positioned where required within the 2,400m3 facility. The phase-array system enables the sound to be delivered in the form of a ‘disc’ rather than the more conventional cone, which radiates in all directions from a single-point source. 

This enables us to place the sound very precisely where desired. The figure below shows how the sound is being directed in a narrow band (red = high intensity, blue = low intensity) towards the wall in such a way that the concentration is over the platform (the rectangle). The height above the platform is adjustable; normally it is about 1.3m above the platform surface. 

Figure showing sound being directed in a narrow band (red = high intensity, blue = low intensity) towards the wall.


The sound is reflected back from the wall underneath the platform, thus eliminating the need for costly acoustic treatment of the building. The ambisonic control of the sound enables us to ‘move’ the sound around the building: in this way we can generate effects of moving people, vehicles, trains and aircraft.

 

Biomechanics

Ergometer & Wheelchair biomechanics:
The ergometer consists of two instrumented freely rolling drums. The drums' resistance can be adjusted and measured and their velocity also recorded. This system is often used in conjunction with the following pieces of equipment:

  • Smartwheel, which measures 3D forces and moments applied to a wheelchair handrim
  • Xsens Xbus kit, which consists of 5 sensors that measure orientation and acceleration in 3-dimensions
  • Trigno system, which measures 3D acceleration and EMG
  • Heart rate

All of these systems are recorded and synchronised through National Instruments hardware and Labview software.

Gait

Gait analysis is achieved through a mixture of basic and more complex equipment. At the most basic foot switches are used, at the more complex the following are used:

  • F-scan system, which is an in-shoe plantar pressure analysis system. It can quantify force, contact pressure distribution, and timing
  • GRIP system, which measures and evaluates static and dynamic pressures from grasping objects
  • Xsens Xbus kit, which consists of 5 sensors that measure orientation and acceleration in 3-dimensions
  • Trigno system, which measures 3D acceleration and EMG.

Example of human movement research at PAMELA
Eye-tracking

We are currently using the SMI Eye Tracking Glasses (ETG) to measure eye movements. ETG is a non-invasive video based glasses-type eye tracker with integrated audio recording. It includes an HD scene camera and special eye tracking technology that captures the eye movements.

Lighting system

A computer controlled variable lighting system is used to simulate street and residential area lighting conditions. 
This consists of programmable solid state LEDs, fluorescent, ceramic discharge, halogen, high and low pressure sodium lamps.

An example of the lighting conditions available at PAMELA

Publications

Access the following PAMELA researchers' individual reports and papers: