My current domain of research lies in the psychological investigation
of communication and interaction. My interests range from the lowest
levels of speech perception to the examination of collaborative
behaviour. This involves the use of empirical experimentation and
modelling, and also the design of new tools for the elicitation
of empirical data.
At the present time I am employed as a research assistant in the
Geneva Interaction Lab at the University of Geneva, investigating
the use of microworlds and Augmented Reality for the study of collaboration.
I also have a continuing interest in the area of syllabic segmentation,
in collaboration with the experimental psycholinguistics laboratory.
environment for the study of collaboration
with Yvan Bourquin & Thomas Wehrle
One of the problems in the investigation of behaviour during collaboration
is the design of controlled and repeatable experiments that maintain
ecological validity. That is, to design an experimental environment
which would allow complete control, and analysis, of all communication
and interaction in collaborative teams whilst allowing the presentation
of complex problem solving tasks and maintaining subject motivation.
To this end the SpaceMiners experimental platform was was
developed at the Geneva Interaction Lab. SpaceMiners is a microworld
environment designed to elicit and record collaborative behaviour.
All tasks, interaction, and instruction are encapsulated in the
microworld, allowing complete control of the collaborative environment,
and a full record of all user interaction. In the case of SpaceMiners,
the microworld represents an interactive problem solving game. The
use of the game paradigm was chosen to make the task enjoyable to
the user, thus maintaining high levels of motivation amongst subjects.
In SpaceMiners the users are presented with a 3D space containing,
at minimum, planets, asteroids, and a spacestation. Each subject
also has a spaceship, fixed at a location in space. The objective
of the game is to launch an unpowered 'drone' from their ship
at a certain speed and direction such that, using the gravity
of the planets, the drone will pass through, and mine, as
many asteroids as possible before finally arriving to dock
at the spacestation.
Each user also has access to a camera, which can be freely
piloted, to allow a different viewpoint onto the space, and
can also be used as a pointing device for the direction of
Problem solving tasks, or levels, are designed by modifying
the configuration of objects in space, and, most importantly,
the distribution of tools amongst the users. Tools modify
the environment in some fashion, for example, by changing
the gravity field, or by teleporting drones from one place
to another. Levels can be designed such that the users must
collaborate in the use of tools in order to fulfill their
objectives. The configuration and distribution of tools and
objects in space can be customised to test, or elicit, collaborative
behaviour over a wide variety of situations.
Current research topics under investigation using the SpaceMiners
experimental platform include:
- Cognitive evaluation of awareness cues
- Investigation of differences in collaborative behaviour using
standard and Augmented Reality interfaces (see below)
- Examination of motivation and collaboration
Currently, research in the area of mixed reality is directed
towards the SPACEcube
At it's best SPACEcube could be viewed as a new and innovative
control/display device, allowing the free and intuitive control
of information in an augmented reality environment. However,
whilst there are possible benefits to be gained in the use
of this device, there is little empirical evidence to support
the assumption that the advantages conveyed through dynamic
virtual objects would offset the disadvantages inherent in
the use of augmented reality interfaces, and fiducial recognition
and mapping of virtual objects.
Current research is directed at the development of the SPACEcube
for use in the SpaceMiners environment, a collaborative task
which would benefit from 'virtual augmentation'. The technique
will then be subject to an experimental study which will examine
the limitations and disadvantages that are inherent in the
use of current augmented reality techniques when compared
standard computing interfaces, and whether their advantages
can outweigh the disadvantages in collaborative environments.
Current research in the area of psycholinguistics is directed towards
the investigation of syllabification, the comparison between phonological
models of syllable boundary placement and empirical data drawn from
In my continuing study, an attempt has been made to judge the merits
of the various principles and theories of syllabification applied
to French, a syllable-timed language, by comparing the theoretical
predictions of these theories with the experimental findings of
a series of psycholinguistic syllable segmentation and perception
A number of factors have been found to influence syllable segmentation.
These include, the nature of intervocalic consonant clusters and
singletons, with preference given to minimal legal syllable onsets,
excepting OBLI clusters, which are tautosyllabic. The aperture of
the vowel at the nucleus of a syllable, with an open vowel inducing
closed syllables, and vice versa. Also, orthographic bias, which,
at the onset of literacy can influence syllabification decisions
in metalinguistic tasks. In addition, examination of the differences
between the syllable onset and offset detection would appear to
suggest that listeners are taking advantage of a number of separate
cues when segmenting speech into syllables.
Currently, an examination of the possible influences of stress
upon syllabification in French is being conducted. Also, using the
results gained from these studies a syllabary of the French language
is being prepared, for publication and distribution.