Perception and Interactive Technologies

“Good evening, Dave. Everything's running smoothly. What about you?”

This is the opening of a conversational dialogue scenario excerpted from a scene in 2001 – a Space Odyssey. It introduces HAL, the fiction of a supercomputer that is endowed with sensors and perception mechanisms, memory, reasoning, decision-making and other behavioural skills. These make him emulating a companion useful in science as well as in everyday situations.

The goal of joint research effort in the Competence Centre Perception and Interactive Technologies (PIT) founded in February 2004 at the University of Ulm is to develop mechanisms for advanced human-computer and computer-human interaction. Future systems should be endowed with more human-like capabilities. For example, the emotional state of the user will be analysed so as to be able to automatically adapt the dialogue flow to user preferences, state of knowledge and learning success. Strategies in menu selection will be guided by computational models of attention and the analysis of eye movements tracked in various scenarios. Advanced display technologies will make use of real-time high-quality computer graphics and simulation to visualize physical processes in space and time. High-end 3D avatars utilizing attention-based display generation will allow to speed-up processing. Advanced speech technology will make use of adaptive and user-state dependent dialogue strategies. Complex knowledge bases and reasoning capabilities will control ambient devices that automatically adapt to user requirements and communication styles and, in doing so, help reducing the mental load of the user.

This highly interdisciplinary endeavour requires overall fusing techniques from different scientific domains as perception, on the one hand, and interactive technologies, on the other hand. The scientific topics of experimental, technical and application oriented research in perception sciences include visual processing and recognition, speech recognition and semantic analysis, attention selection and guidance, learning and adaptability, psychophysical evaluation and usability analysis, and fusion and information management. Interactive technologies are building upon capabilities such as control and navigation through dialogues, ability to adapt, multi-modality such as graphics, gesture, speech and emotion for input and output, affectiveness, computer-supported collaborative work, planning and reasoning, and conflict resolution in complex multi-level decisions. Hence, the centre brings together researchers from various disciplines such as, for example, computer science and engineering sciences, medical, psychological and neurosciences, as well as mathematics. The goal is to establish joint collaborative research in various domains that have shown to be of relevance to the spectrum of PIT.