Interaction between humans and machines is one of the areas in computer science that has evolved a lot these last years. Progresses and innovations are mainly due to increases in computer power and technology of interaction devices and interactive software. It is also the result of new ways of considering the interaction with computers and the role of computers in everyday life.
Communication appears as a main challenge in digital technologies and usages of digital technologies. Communication through language (speech, texts, and signs) or other highly structured means (music, dance, postures) is studied for enabling new interaction paradigms, new tools for communication, and new instruments for performing arts.
Other fields renewed by technological advances in display systems but also by the increasing power of computer systems and the growing up of massive forms of computation are physical systems modelling and data visualisation. Moreover, visualisation of large amount of data must be combined with new ways of interacting with a machine in virtual reality systems.
It is worth to mention that these researches imply the study of the close relationship between human and machines during the interaction, the consequence being the development of researches relating sophisticated software realisations, psychological and psychophysical studies in an interdisciplinary framework. It is indeed increasingly mandatory to understand how humans perceive these technological environments and interact with them but it is also necessary to validate the technological solutions mediating these interactions with end users.
Digiteo partners explore new interaction techniques as well as new tools for developing these techniques, and new methods for controlling the design process of interactive systems.
Some of them focus on the invention and development of new interaction devices and paradigms between users and computer-based systems. Others are focused on developing interfaces with natural communication with the user, employing all the human communication modalities (speech, gesture...) and adapting to any disabilities, to increase the uptake of the systems and reduce their cost. It is the case, for instance, of interfaces that are adapted (or adaptable) to their contexts of use by taking advantage of the complementary aspects of humans and computers. In the long run, these researches seek to create a new generation of
interactive environments as an alternative to the current generation of desktop environments.
One use of these new interfaces is in the context of ambient intelligence and pervasive environments in which human will be able to interact with everyday objects in a direct, situated and more flexible way.
Other new forms of interfaces studied by Digiteo partners are based on virtual agents (Embodied conversational agents, virtual humans) able to mediate the interaction with computational systems through language and emotional cues.
Information search and dialog systems
This topic mainly focuses on knowledge engineering, multimedia and multilingual information research, multimedia document indexing and semantic analysis of multimedia documents (image and video). One of the main concerns of this topic is written and spoken language analysis (and synthesis) for which Digiteo has a well-established expertise.
These researches aim at providing tools for multimedia document automatic indexing through semantic and structural elements extracted from text, speech or images and videos in more generally from unstructured documents (e.g. from the internet). They also focus on the development of question and answer systems and on their coupling with information research, allowing them to integrate extra linguistic elements such as prosody or emotional content.
Another important topic concerns the development of multimodal and multi-scale interfaces for interactive visualisation of large data sets. It leads to the study of the visualisation process and to the development of new software tools for the display and visual exploration of such data.
The heterogeneity of the structures, the dynamics or the presence of high abstraction level and meta-data lead to very complex visualisation challenges. The high dimensionality of the data (much greater than the display capabilities) is also an obstacle to their representation and lead to the use of multimodal channels like haptic and audio.
Virtual and augmented reality
Digiteo partners conduct researches on different aspects of virtual and augmented reality, from the development of algorithms dedicated to these technologies (geometric real-time algorithms, collision detection, rays-tracing), to the design of methodologies for interaction, with a strong emphasis on the question of multimodality and trans-modality. One particular topic well developed even at the hardware level is haptic interaction and more generally the question of the interaction with systems with high degrees of freedom.
The outstanding richness of equipments shared by the Digiteo labs (Cave, image wall, interactive table-top, ambient environments) allows Digiteo partners to study the effect of various levels of immersion and various modes of interaction.
Most of these research subjects are motivated by the involvement of some Digiteo partners in the development of tools for the numerical plant in which a large part of production studies will be conducted through numerical simulations. We can mention in this field the questions raised by the computer-assisted design in virtual systems (modalities, object and action coding, object manipulation...).
Another related question is the design and use of virtual humans with the questions raised by the poly-articulated systems, the grasping and the object manipulation by these avatars. In the field of the numerical design one major topic is collaborative work in distant immersive environments for which there are active collaborations between Digiteo partners.