Neurodiversity and VTubing with Jamie Chatterton.
We spoke to Jamie Chatterton about neurodiversity, VTubing and her creation of a 3D Avatar Model.
- Jamie Chatterton
Tom: Welcome to episode 35 of the Make Things Better podcast. In today's episode, I'm joined by Jamie Chatterton from Hive IT. Welcome on the show, Jamie. How are you doing today?
Jamie: I'm okay. Nervous, of course.
Tom: Well, I don't blame you. And it'll be interesting to talk to you today about quite a few things. So like your sort of journey into working at Hive IT, neurodiversity, and also VTubing as well.
All sorts of topics that I really don't know much about, so I'm very curious to hear a lot more about these topics. So what I want to start off by asking you then is do you want to tell us a bit about yourself and sort of how you ended up at Hive IT and what your job is here at Hive IT?
Jamie: Okay. I can go really far back in the past and say I started developing when I was eight years old on a Commodore 64 back in the 80s. That just sort of was a massive hobby for about 12 years. Then went to university, failed that, went through a bit of a phase, went back to university and got a degree in software engineering.
From there, I went to the employer that sponsored me halfway through the course, which I stayed at until about 2016 when I was talking to Johnny, the managing director, I was interested in a job there, and then I transferred over to Hive. It's been over seven years.
Tom: Yeah, and how have things been over the last seven years at Hive?
Jamie: Oh, they've been great. There's a lot of variety of different types of software here. I mean, a lot of it is focused on web, but I've been given opportunities to work with other things like Unity. So I'm really enjoying that.
Tom: Yeah, and I remember you did a fair bit of work on Unity with a National Railway Museum project, was it, quite a few years back?
Jamie: Yeah, we did a, it was an AR project. It sort of stemmed to a visual novel kind of thing if people know that term, when you play through a story visually, you get to choose choices and the characters react, that kind of thing. And that was done in Unity. That was one of the first big things that I felt that really introduced me to Unity properly.
Tom: Yeah, and this model that you've built, have you built this in Unity as well?
Jamie: No, this uses a special piece of software that's designed to create these kind of models that the complexity of them would be a bit too slow for me to do it. It'd take a couple of years to learn it all. Maybe a couple of years, but from scratch, definitely from scratch.
Tom: Wow, okay. Yeah, and I'll be asking you a little bit more about VTubing in a little while. But yeah, before we get into that then, do you want to tell us a bit about neurodiversity and what is that?
Jamie: I'll put it in my words. Neurodiversity is sort of the different way a person perceives the world. So sensory data, emotional data, all that kind of thing is not, what should I say? Not average, not the expected norms from a person. So if you have, say, like I do, you have a sensory problem with sound, it can overwhelm your senses. If something doesn't sound right, or you don't like it, or even the other, it could be a really pleasant sound. And all you do is listen to that sound and get focused on it, and you can't, it's hard to break away from it. It sort of interrupts your brain because it overwhelms those senses and your brain can only focus on those. There's other things like touch, cold, the inability to sense your body properly. There's lots of different ways it can change how you interact with the world and other people because it's not a very well understood thing still.
Tom: Yeah, so is it about the way in which different people's brains work in different ways?
Jamie: Yeah, it's almost like they're wired up differently. So I don't know why it's wired up differently, I don't know why it's wired up that way, but like I say, I get overwhelmed by the sound, I get overwhelmed by light, I get overwhelmed by touch. And because those things are happening all the time, if a sound starts and I'm in a bit of an anxious state, it will cause me to go into what is known as a meltdown, where I've just gone too far and I can't control myself. Everything's coming at once. And it might look like I'm getting a bit, what's the word, angry. Or angry, the best word. I'm not angry at, say I'm not angry at a person, I'm angry at what's happening to me and the inability for me to control it.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. Does that impact you much in terms of your job like day to day?
Jamie: It can do. when I get into some work, I can get really focused and hyper fixated on it. And then suddenly someone distracts me and I'm kind of in a, in a, it's not, it's not really a bad mood. It's sort of like my, it takes so much effort to move myself, to change focus on what they're saying to me, that it's emotionally straining. And because I've been so locked in on what I was doing, it's very easy for me to forget what I was doing. So it cause, it can cause problems there. If I get distracted and I end up changing focus onto something else that I get hyper fixated on. And how do you go about dealing with that? Give a good example is, uh, we use Slack and that used to constantly interrupt me. And I, every interruption was sort of like, Oh, I must do this now. I'm just focused on that. And I just basically turn notifications off. And only pay attention to it. When I have a moment, I think about it. Same with the phone, same with everything else. Everything that just gives notifications would distract me and I couldn't do anything after that because I lost my chain of thought.
Tom: Is there more things that companies could be doing to meet the needs of neurodivergent people?
Jamie: I think there's definitely something people, companies can do and that they need to do a lot of companies need to do it, but I'm, I'm working for a company that actually helps so well that it's hard for me to tell you exactly what another company would need to do. Best example I can give is from the previous company was I was sat in an office with a light above my head that made a noise and it stopped, it caused me to not be able to concentrate. Now we had tried to get HR and everyone to change the ball, fix the ball. But they said, no, we can't do it because it basically affects the whole office. So I was stuck in a position where I wasn't able to concentrate properly and little things like that.
Um, just helping a neurodiverse person with their surroundings, um, listening to them, if they're having problems and overwhelming themselves, accepting that it's going to happen and things like that, really it's all understanding that someone is maybe a little bit different to an extreme sometimes.
Tom: Yeah. And how did it make you feel at the old employer then when they didn't change their light, despite it distracting you quite severely?
Jamie: It depressed me to be honest, I think I'm going to get, it's depressing that I'm stuck there and they wouldn't do anything to fix the problem.
Tom: Yeah. And then here at Hive, how have you found as a company, we've sort of been able to, to meet the needs of neurodivergent people and is there anything that Hive could do better?
Jamie: I know from my perspective, they've done a lot. They've sort of, when I needed a better office space in the office, they helped me sort that out when I needed to be out of the way, they helped me sort that out when I have problems and I just can't work, they helped me out there. It's hard to say they've done it, that Hive has done anything bad. Cause they've been very supportive.
Tom: And how do you think companies then can sort of help people who do have certain needs, do you think it's a case of just like listening to people more?
Jamie: Listen, yeah, listen, a lot of the time, because it's a neurological, it's a mental health disorder, people ignore it. They think it's, you see all that itch, it's all in their head. So they can control it, they can stop. It's not something I can control. If it's physically debilitating when it goes bad and because of society, not really seeing that kind of thing as a problem, it just gets ignored and overlooked. It's a bit upsetting to be honest.
Tom: Yeah. And moving on then to the topic of, uh, sort of VTubing, I suppose that's kind of in line with a lot of this stuff. And, uh, obviously you've created a really amazing 3D avatar as well. Do you want to tell us first of all, what is VTubing because this isn't a term that I was actually aware of before we had a conversation.
Jamie: Well, you know, what YouTubing is, you go online, you make videos, you record yourself playing games, anything really. But it's the virtual version of that where you use a virtual representation. And here I'm using a 3D model. But other people use images of themselves talking and might change when they talk. Um, that's virtual YouTubing essentially. That's what it stands for. Just doing the job, using a virtual representation of yourself instead of yourself.
Tom: When did you first get into VTubing?
Jamie: Maybe about two years ago now, I can't sound big at all. Problems stop me from doing it. The autism, the neurodiversity again, stops me being able to do it because it just causes this kind of issues. But yes, about two years ago I started, I created a model, different model obviously, and I was just playing games to start with and then I thought maybe I'll just show myself streaming while I code and show some of the work I was doing. Which doesn't go down too well unfortunately, again in the community, because it's all about games and being a brilliant social entertainer. I'm not really a massively good entertainer.
Tom: And you said there that some things have stopped you from sort of doing it. Do you want to tell me more about that?
Jamie: It's sort of, part of my problem is I have trouble with, it's called executive function disorder. It's kind of like being demotivated and struggle to do anything. But it's more to do with not being able to know what to do. You've got a million tasks in front of you and you don't know which one to choose first.
So you just get overwhelmed, procrastinate over which one you're going to do and get stuck in a cycle of not being able to do it and not liking yourself for not being able to do it. And it just gets worse and worse and it can end up with massive depression and things like that. But that's kind of what stops me doing it all the time when I really really want to. I still just can't force myself over the neurological barrier to do it. I know there are many people who you have spoken about this with, like on online communities perhaps.
Tom: Is there others out there, do you think, who are sort of experiencing similar difficulties sometimes?
Jamie: Oh yeah, I interact with the autistic community a lot and there's a lot of people with similar problems, just not being able to do things. It straddles through ADHD as well, to be honest. There's a lot of overlap between the two and I think I just suffer from a lot of both of them.
Tom: And how does the 3D avatar help you then? Because I think I've noticed you maybe use it a few times in meetings and such.
Jamie: Basically one of the things I don't like is showing myself in public and sticking myself behind this model. It's just a better way for me to interact with people because it gives me a bit more confidence to be able to do it. And there's a bit of fun in it as well, so it increases my enjoyment level of what I'm doing. And that really helped me progress socially.
Tom: And how did you find building it? Did it take a long time?
Jamie: The software you use to make it, you start off with a generic character and then you've got sliders to adjust it. So you can adjust all the sizes and everything, all the facial features, all the body shape. But because of all that complexity, it can take a while to find the one you like. So yeah, making this model, it took a long time, even though the software had to help with the process.
Tom: How can other people create a model like this? Or do you have any tips to anyone else who would maybe be in a similar situation where they'd like to use a model?
Jamie: VR Vroid Studio. That's what it's called, Vroid Studio. But yeah, that's the software I use, Vroid Studio, to create the initial model. And for basics, that's fine. There are other ways of messing with the model. You can load it into Unity and add other things to it. You can load it into Blender and modify the model directly. I'm trying to learn Blender now so I could do things with it. But it's immensely complex because there's so much for the model to control. There's all the facial features. There's all the movement of the limbs when I get it working. There's the hair. Some people that know Blender are going to say it's not that hard. It really is. It's like learning how to program again.
Tom: Yeah. Have you enjoyed learning how to create this 3D avatar?
Jamie: Oh yeah, definitely. It's great fun. It's really fun to make. It's nice to see where your imagination gets to take you.
Tom: Yeah. And you were telling me before we started chatting about how you're also working on improving the blinking functionality at the moment because sometimes, unless you have certain settings on, you can look like you're winking when you're blinking if you turn into the side, can't you?
Jamie: Yeah, because the software I'm using uses a webcam to do the tracking. It can't pick you up at every angle easily, so if you look too far away, like if I look too far to the side I have the auto blink turned on now it will have trouble tracking the eye that's further away and the software gets a bit confused and it refuses to accept you've blinked and you'll end up winking It's a bit of a pain, but I spent all morning making the Auto blink so it does it automatically.
Yeah, I can close my eyes, but when I've got them open it starts blinking without me doing anything Just give that not a psychotic person kind of look. It does look weird when you don't blink
Tom: Yeah, well, I think you've done an amazing job on the on the model for sure. It looks really really great So, yeah, I think we'll move on to the final question then which is the question I ask every guest and there's also a question I did not prep you for at all. So apologies for this one, but yeah, we'll go for it. So what can people do to make things better and you can interpret this however you like?
Jamie: If you want me to get political I said there's a lot of hate in the world and a lot of haters coming up from multiple places a lot of its politics a lot of it's just capitalism and there's a lot of not liking each other in the moment and a lot of people just find it an easy easier way to get to make themselves better is to attack others and it's a really bad thing because other people are trying as well and just trying to get through life.
When others are putting you down for their own gratifications, it's one of my biggest bugbears. So if people could just be nicer and accept and people are empathetic with others.
There's always someone that's going to have it off worse than you but just accept that and be kind to them try and understand them better.
Tom: Yeah, that's an awesome answer. I love that and similar to a few of the answers we've had in the past, but I think you've put that like really well, so yeah, I like that. All right, we'll wrap it up there. Where can people find you Jamie maybe on like YouTube or any other social media channels or anything like that?
Jamie: You can find me on Twitter account and yes, I'm making a YouTube channel. I'm going to make some development videos and maybe an introduction to how to how to make the a model. The only problem I got with that is because you can’t alter the clothing on the model. It might need censoring.
Finally a big thanks to Jamie for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate your time, thanks for thanks for being here and sharing so much with us. I really do appreciate it and yeah, thanks to anyone who's watched or listened or read this and I hope you have an amazing rest of your day.
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