2019-01477 - Post-Doctoral Research Visit F/M Physio-synchronised 3D virtual avatars

Contract type : Public service fixed-term contract

Level of qualifications required : PhD or equivalent

Fonction : Post-Doctoral Research Visit

About the research centre or Inria department

Potioc is an Inria project-team, joint with Université de Bordeaux and CNRS. We are located at the center Inria Bordeaux - Sud-Ouest. The overall objective of Potioc is to explore new approaches that favor rich interaction with the digital world trough engaging and motivating interfaces, with the final goal of stimulating creation, learning, or entertainment. To this end, we propose to focus on the design, development and evaluation of popular (3D) User Interfaces, mostly targeted at the general public.

Context

Context

Inria, the French National Institute for computer science and applied mathematics, promotes “scientific excellence for technology transfer and society”. Graduates from the world’s top universities, Inria's 2,700 employees rise to the challenges of digital sciences. Research at Inria is organized in “project teams” which bring together researchers with complementary skills to focus on specific scientific projects. With this open, agile model, Inria is able to explore original approaches with its partners in industry and academia and provide an efficient response to the multidisciplinary and application challenges of the digital transformation. The source of many innovations that add value and create jobs, Inria transfers expertise and research results to companies (startups, SMEs and major groups) in fields as diverse as healthcare, transport, energy, communications, security and privacy protection, smart cities and the factory of the future.

More specifically, this postdoc position will involve a collaboration between 3 Inria teams, namely Potioc (Bordeaux), MimeTIC (Rennes) and Hybrid (Rennes). The prefered location for the position will be in the Potioc team in Bordeaux, with regular meetings and visits in the teams located in Rennes. However, it is not a fixed rule and the work could also be conducted in Rennes in case of outstanding applications. More specifically, the position is framed in the context of the national 4-year Inria Project Lab - IPL AVATAR which aims at delivering the next generation of virtual selves, or “avatars”, in digital worlds. In particular, the IPL AVATAR wants to push further the limits of perception and interaction through our avatars to obtain avatars that are better embodied and more interactive. Such objectives will notably be attained by designing novel paradigms for interacting with and representing avatars.

Motivation

Avatars are virtual anthropomorphic characters whose goals are to represent humans in virtual worlds. Such avatars are frequently used in personal applications such as video games, or collaborative scenarios [Pan and Steed 2017, Piumsomboon et al. 2018]. They allow their users to be virtually present in a personal or shared 3D synthetic world.

Due to the massive dissemination of consumer-grade Head-Mounted Displays, avatars have become a major requirement in immersive applications, leading to major improvements in their visual quality. On one hand, it is now possible to personalize the avatar representation to the user, which impacts immersion [Waltemate et al. 2018], as well as to display onto these avatars accurate motions of users through the use of lightweight motion capture systems, and even to display believable facial expressions. On the other hand, avatars still lack from some of the more subtle information regarding the users’ psycho-physiological state, and therefore do not generally accurately inform us about their current real state. For example, an avatar may appear as peaceful whereas its user is very stressed or anxious, or appear rested after a strenuous effort while its user might be breathless. Therefore, new techniques are today necessary to enable avatars to more accurately represent the physiological state of its user.

Assignment

Objective      

The objective of this postdoc is to explore approaches that will better reflect the current state of users by adapting their avatar’s visual appearance to their own physiological signals. In this project, we will thus first concentrate on the realtime recording and processing of physiological signals. These signals may include, but are not limited to, breathing, heart rate, galvanic skin response, facial muscle activity (electromyography) or ocular information (eye movements, blinks, pupillometry). While adapting the behaviour of non-player characters to the users’ physiological signals can influence their performance, e.g., for sports training in VR [Argelaguet et al. 2015], it is still unclear which signals are relevant to display on one’s avatar, and how to display them.

Main activities

After concentrating on the real-time recording and processing, the second part of this postdoc will explore how to coherently map these modalities to the visual appearance of the avatar. This can be done by mimicking realistic behaviours (e.g. breathing [Bernadette et al. 2019]), or by proposing visual metaphors (e.g. cardiac coherence mapped to a colored animation surrounding the avatar). However, as these signals might have different levels of influence on the user’s experience, a large part of the work will consist in assessing the influence of such physio-synchronised avatars. In particular, we will evaluate this impact on two principal dimensions, namely their influence on the sense of embodiment in virtual worlds (i.e., the degree to which users consider the avatar to be their representation in the virtual world), and their influence on the collaboration between remote users (e.g., perception of the other person’s physical or emotional state). These evaluations will be achieved by conducting controlled user studies.


Skills

The candidate should be comfortable with as much following items as possible:

  • Graphics programming and tools such as Unity3D
  • VR setups (e.g. HMD)
  • Character animation
  • Physiological sensors recording and processing
  • Evaluation methods
  • Controlled users studies
  • Immersion, presence, embodiment

 

Benefits package

  • Subsidized meals
  • Partial reimbursement of public transport costs
  • Possibility of teleworking (after 6 months of employment) and flexible organization of working hours
  • Professional equipment available (videoconferencing, loan of computer equipment, etc.)
  • Social, cultural and sports events and activities
  • Access to vocational training
  • Social security coverage

Remuneration

2653€ / month (before taxs)