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Research Grant from the European FET Program

16 February
2022

Reichman University

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Reichman University congratulates Prof. Amir Amedi and Prof. Doron Friedman on winning a research grant from the European FET Program

 


Congratulations to Prof. Doron Friedman of the Sammy Ofer School of Communications and Prof. Amir Amedi of the Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology on winning a grant from the European Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) program for their participation in the GuestXR project

 

The world is at the dawn of the process of transitioning from interaction via flat-screen devices to the next generation of human-computer interaction – extended reality (XR). In a few years, we are likely to find ourselves meeting in shared virtual spaces rather than on applications like Zoom, which will gradually turn today's internet into a “metaverse.” The GuestXR project’s mission is to use artificial intelligence technology to redefine these spaces for social interaction. GuestXR is a multi-sensory AI system that promotes positive social interactions in multi-participant XR (virtual and mixed reality) environments.

 

The fundamental idea of the project is to develop the “guest” as a machine learning (ML) agent based on reinforcement learning (RL). The guest promotes positive interactions by increasing cooperation between people, encouraging reconciliation between individuals and groups with polarized stances, stimulating creative thinking, moving towards effective decision making, and building common social representations for shared actions in virtual social spaces. This is to counter the reality that today, such online meeting spaces are often characterized by abuse, hate speech, fake news, cyberbullying, radicalization and threats of violence.

 

The GuestXR project comprises eight partners from academia and industry, from across Europe, two of whom are researchers from Reichman University. The Advanced Reality Lab, headed by Prof. Doron Friedman of the Sammy Ofer School of Communications, is responsible for developing the machine learning algorithms behind the “guest” agent. The lab is involved in a number of national and international research projects in the fields of virtual reality and telepresence, brain-computer interface, and human-machine interaction.

 

Prof. Amir Amedi of the Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology, a pioneering brain researcher in the field of multisensory research, is responsible for another important aspect of the project, which uses behavioral methods and brain imaging (fMRI) to explore the principles and neural basis of multisensory integration in rich virtual environments, compared to the simpler conditions of the lab. The research he will lead will also aim to increase the accessibility of VR/AR technologies to people with hearing and visual impairments (including the deaf and blind). The research will include the groundbreaking work of some of the researchers and students in Amedi’s lab, including that of Dr. Katarzyna Cieśla, who used a sensory substitution device that can nearly double the degree of speech comprehension in noisy environments without any training, and double one’s speech comprehension after a short training period by converting and transmitting speech using touch; as well as the work of Dr. Adi Snir, who runs the lab’s multisensory ambisonic room and is developing the ability to encode language in noisy environments, for example understanding speech when there is background noise or when several people are involved in a discussion simultaneously.

 

The program funding the project is FET: Future and Emerging Technologies, which is part of the EU's “Horizon 2020” research and development program.

 

FET is a prestigious EU program aimed at producing new technologies from collaborations between multidisciplinary science and cutting-edge engineering. During the seven years of the Horizon 2020 program, a budget of 2.6 billion euros has been allocated to FET.