eNTERFACE'08 banner.

eNTERFACE Workshops Motivations Reflexions

Christophe d'Alessandro photography by Christophe d'Alessandro, LIMSI - CNRS, Situated Perception group

We are very happy to invite at LIMSI researchers in Multimodal Interfaces worldwide to the eNTERFACE08 workshop, the next of a series of successful workshops initiated by SIMILAR, the European Network of Excellence (NoE) on Multimodal interfaces. eNTERFACE’08 will follow the fruitful path opened by eNTERFACE’05 in Mons, Belgium, and continued by eNTERFACE’06 in Dubrovnik, Croatia and eNTERFACE’07 Istanbul, Turkey. SIMILAR came to an end in 2007, and the eNTERFACE workshops are now under the aegis of the OpenInterface Foundation.

In this digital age, Multimodal Interfaces are extending and replacing mechanical and electrical instruments. Impressive results have been achieved and new challenging applications are foreseen in fields like medicine, assistance to disabled persons, communication, design, performing arts, games, and many other types of human activity involving computer interaction.

Research on Multimodal Interfaces is a challenging interdisciplinary field, blending perception and action, sensory modalities and cognition, physics and the humanities, computer science and signal processing, theory and experiments, and last but not least science and art.

The following themes will be studied and developed during the four-week long workshop: Multimodal signal analysis and synthesis, Fusion and fission of modalities, Context aware adaptation, Edutainment and learning assistance, Medical applications, Disabled applications and Usability, with a special emphasis on Multimodal Communication, including speech, gestures, performing arts, facial expressions, Multimodal Corpora.

The ultimate goal of this workshop is to make this four weeks event a unique opportunity for students and experts to meet and work together, and to foster the development of tomorrow's multimodal research community.

Bülent Sankur photography by Bülent Sankur, BUMM - Bogaziçi University Multimedia Group

Bogazici University Multimedia (BUMM) students and faculty have been participating to the previous eNTERFACE activities. Their first-hand impressions show that the eNTERFACE workshops have been instrumental in increasing the research motivation of our students and have provided them with invaluable experiences in project cooperation and teamwork. We are therefore very enthusiastic about SIMILAR project in general and about eNTERFACE'07 in particular, and we strongly believe in the benefits of such workshops. At eNTERFACEs, seeds of long lasting partnerships can be planted.

The third workshop in the triad of eNTERFACEs in Mons, Dubrovnik and Istanbul, we extended the invitation for participation beyond SIMILAR to all other FP6 project groups with concordant themes. Projects have been realized on novel themes, such as man-machine interfaces in finance, bio-informatics and security.

Igor S. Pandžic photography by Igor S. Pandžic, Organizer of eNTERFACE'06

eNTERFACE'06 took place in Dubrovnik, Croatia, at the peak of summer tourist season. With the venue 500 m from the historic city center and two minutes walk from the beach, the big question we were asked was: "how will you get people to work there"?. In fact, the 65 participating researchers and students were so motivated that such questions quickly became pointless and days passed in a busy and creative working atmosphere in the two classrooms filled with computers and electronics. Yet no one could accuse the eNTERFACE'06 participants of being mere geeks - in the evenings and weekends a lively and versatile social scene developed. With the organized social program serving as a basis, participants have organized numerous activities: sports tournaments, excursions, cultural events as well as a spicy nightlife featuring beach parties. All together, eNTERFACE'06 turned out to be a well-rounded mix of research, learning and fun. With such basis, I hope and believe that some of the seeds planted in Dubrovnik will grow into full-blown research collaborations of the future. As the memories of the more mundane organizational chores fade from memory, what is left is pure satisfaction of being part of the unique series of events that is eNTERFACE.

Thierry Dutoit photography by Thierry Dutoit, Initiator of the eNTERFACE concept and organizer of eNTERFACE'05

I take this opportunity to mention how the idea of eNTERFACE came to life in mid 2003, when the core committee of SIMILAR (the European Network of Excellence on Multimodal Interfaces), was busy establishing its list of workpackages. It is basically a three acts play.

Act 1. I have been a researcher since 1987. It is therefore becoming hard to navigate in the “conferences” directory of my laptop. Small to big, short to long, close to far away, I think I have tried them all. One of them, however, will last forever in my memory as the most productive meeting I have ever attended. It was a summer school on Prosody, in July 1993, organized by the ELSNET (already a scientific network). I spent two weeks there, at UCL London, attending lectures and, more importantly, taking labs with my fellow PhD students from all over the world. I must say this is simply the place where I met most of my friends for life!

Act 2. In 1996, I had the opportunity to work for AT&T at Bell Labs for 1.5 years, in the TTS group. This was set about 2 years after I finished my PhD (i.e., 2 years after I had signed with Kluwer for writing the “3-months-of-work” book in TTS I took 3 years to complete; I finished it at AT&T…). It was clear to me that I was then about to meet the greatest gurus in speech processing (yet I had underestimated the number of famous people who were working in this lab), and that I would work with the best maintained software archive in the world (you snap your finger, and you get what you were looking for; this, I had overestimated..). I did meet all these people, and the atmosphere was such that meeting each other was really easy, but I also realized something I had never imagined: research in the US is a huge network thing. Network in terms of “You seldom work on your own on a problem”, but also in terms of “Be with the network; the network will take care of you”. In other words, research is very much advertised and supported by your employer, by all sorts of professional organizations, and even among the general public. Hence its dynamics.

Act 3. I was aware of the successful DARPA workshops on speech recognition organized yearly by Prof. Fred Jelinek at Johns Hopkins University. Funded by the Defense Agency (which implies a strong financial support), these workshops have progressively become a “must” for researchers in the field, who come from all around the world to participate. One of our researchers took part to it, and my ex-colleague Hervé Bourlard, now the Director of IDIAP in Switzerland, was an active member of it. I have always envied this event, and dreamt of finding money to organize something SIMILAR. Thanks to EU financing, and with special care from SIMILAR, this dream has come true. With its 55 researchers from 15 countries all around the world working together for four weeks on seven pre-selected projects, eNTERFACE'05 in Mons, Belgium, has been a great success. The following eNTERFACE'6 and eNTERFACE'07 confirmed and increased this initial success. Long life to eNTERFACE workshops!