Technology platforms at the Inria Sophia Antipolis-Méditerranée research centre
Inria Sophia Antipolis – Méditerranée manages around ten major technology platforms. These are used to carry out scientific experiments - such as evaluating algorithms designed by the project-teams - on dedicated infrastructures featuring cutting-edge technology. These tools are essential for ensuring the right conditions for innovative research.
The platforms available at Sophia serve the centre's three core fields :
- Omnipresent communication and computing
- Computational medicine and biology
- Modelling, simulation and interaction with the real world
They cater for scientific collaborations involving Inria and other research bodies or universities, as well as SMEs, in a wide variety of fields of research and application.
Researchers and research engineers at the centre (equivalent to around five full-time workers) are currently dedicated to maintaining these platforms, their integration, their scientific coordination (scientific and technology steering committee, etc.) and technology transfer operations. Inria's project-teams and their partners use them regularly.
It is worth noting that the centre has benefited from the current State-Region Project Contract (2006-2013) in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (PACA) region to offer, together with its partners, a range of shared and upgradeable platforms as part of a programme called Telius, which is headed by Inria.
Gouraud-Phong : an immersive room with variable dimensions
Field: Modelling, simulation and interaction with the real world
The latest of Inria's platforms in Sophia, the Gouraud-Phong immersive room is unique due to its distinctive incorporation of the very latest technologies. It has the advantage of guaranteeing the highest quality of image and sensation of immersion, while also being extremely easy to use. Another special feature is that the platform is designed so that it can combine the available systems according to the desired level of complexity. The installation features an immersive cube (iSpace ) and an image wall (CadWall ), which offer a high-quality visual rendering in relief (stereo), a spatialised sound reproduction on speakers or headphones and the position monitoring of different targets and optical markers. It is also possible to directly connect to a grid computing system, thus harnessing significant computing power to combine high-performance computing with visualisation and interaction, and achieve a more advanced set of sounds and images.
Adapting to users' needs
This set of features means the platform can be offered to a broad range of users.
It is primarily aimed at the virtual reality and 3D community, which has access to a cutting-edge facility to improve associated technologies, examples including intuitive interaction modes and rendering algorithms.
It is also aimed at researchers in other fields , who can test the input provided by 3D visualisation to explore their data and find new ways to interact with them. This is relevant to many fields, including the digital simulation of complex phenomena such as those seen in fluid mechanics or medical imagery. Another somewhat unexpected use is for the in situ study of phobias as part of collaborations with psychologists. The immersive wall offers these researchers an initial approach to these techniques so that they can gradually advance their visualisation software towards total immersion. From simple images projected in relief and combined with a positioning monitoring system, to the use of higher-performance sophisticated tools, everything is designed to facilitate the transition to the immersive cube.
This platform, which has an equipment value of €1 m, has received, as part of the Telius State-Region Project Contract, financing from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region and the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research. It is a shared research platform.
R2Lab: a platform for studying wireless networks
Field: Omnipresent communication and computation
The objectives of the R2lab testbed, located at Inria Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée, is to make it possible to evaluate new wireless protocols in realistic experimental conditions.
The lab is placed in an anechoic Faraday room of about 100 ㎡, and hosts about 40 nodes that each has 2 wireless interfaces connected to 3 antennas each.
About ten nodes feature additionally a USRP Software-Defined Radio board, and allow for experimenting with new physical layers. It is in particular possible to deploy on this substrate 4G/5G networks, for example by leveraging OpenAirInterface (developed by Eurecom next door), and to run complete scenarios where the R2lab nodes act as a base station, a user phone, or simply as a probe or scrambler. Last, the room contains a few regular commercial phones, that can be attached to such deployments. A
software interface developped in the context of the E.U. OneLab project makes it possible to control experiments from a remote location.
R2lab is a shared research testbed that was set up as part of the ANR Equipex FIT (Future Internet of Things) project, and has also been partially funded by the UCN@Sophia Labex.
Medical imaging platform
Axis: Computational medicine and biology
This platform is dedicated to the analysis and simulation of biological and medical images and signals. The equipment provides data at both the microscopic and macroscopic level, enabling the phenomena studied to be explored at different scales of space and time, and adapted mathematical and computer models to be proposed and validated. One of Inria's stated objectives involves two facets: understanding tumour mechanisms, from the cell (microscopic imaging) to the tumour (preclinical and clinical imaging), and providing therapeutic support.
This platform, coordinated by Inria, contains three acquisition systems, each of which is hosted by an organisation specialising in the corresponding type of imaging:
- A microscope for the imaging of proteins involved in cell signalling (Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology in Sophia Antipolis).
- A CT/TEMP combined scanner for preclinical imaging (1) (French Atomic Energy Commission/Antoine Lacassagne Centre in Nice).
- A CT scanner for diagnosis and the planning of radiotherapy(2) (Antoine Lacassagne Centre in Nice).
The medical imaging platform at the Inria Sophia Antipolis – Méditerranée research centre has received funding as part of the Telius State-Region Project Contract. It is a shared research platform.
(1) The imaging of small animals (mice, rats); the scale is approximately the same as in clinical imaging. However, it is preferable to use the term preclinical imaging rather than animal imaging.
(2) "Standard" imaging on patients. In both cases (clinical/preclinical) the scale involved is an organ or the body.
dtk: a metaplatform for software development
dtk is a metaplatform for software development, providing the foundations needed to develop dedicated modular scientific platforms. It aggregates functionalities embedded using low-level and interchangeable software entities - plugins - and orchestrated through high-level software entities - scripts, compositions or user interface elements. It then overcomes recurring aspects of advanced software development cycles to enable research teams to focus on research code.
This platform provides an abstraction for each of three major concepts - data, algorithm and view - all common to any scientific domain. Thus, each specific research team or group of teams can specialize these concepts within their own research area. To this end, dtk implements a mechanism for aggregating these specializations through plugins. Moreover, numerous peripheral development layers are available such as high level wrapping and scripting, visual programming, distributed computing and immersive visualization.
This platform is non-invasive in terms of codes developed by either third party communities or research teams and acts as a link between software components.
In addition, dtk supplies several tools for engineers or researchers to easily prototype experiments: integrated development environment, generators, tutorials, examples and integrated documentation system.
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Interim head of Technology Transfer and Industrial Partnerships department