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.

Collaboration and Interaction
Microworld 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 other users.

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
Mixed Reality

Currently, research in the area of mixed reality is directed towards the SPACEcube project:

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.

Syllable Segmentation

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 psycholinguistics experimentation.

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 experiments.

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.