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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.

Technical features

  • Rear-screen projection on all screens
  • Optical position monitoring
  • Infitec  stereo
  • Spatialised sound
  • iSpacework area : 3.2m x 3.2m x 2.4m
  • Size of the CadWall  screen: 4.1m x 1.4m
  • The 2 devices can be used simultaneously

Plexus : a platform for studying wireless networks

Field: Omnipresent communication and computation 

The purpose of the Plexus platform at Inria Sophia Antipolis – Méditerranée is to enable the evaluation of new wireless network protocols under real-life experimentation conditions. The laboratory, made up of a room measuring 8m x 5m, represents a typical classroom in which around 20 laptops are placed on tables. These laptops can act as a Wi-Fi traffic receiver, source or sensor. Around ten USRP software radio cards are available so that new physical layers can be experimented with. The platform also uses trace collection and synchronisation tools. Lastly, a software interface developed as part of the OneLab European project allows users to conduct their experiments remotely. The platform is currently evolving in liaison with the Stic campus of Sophia Antipolis and the European laboratory EIT ICT Lab in order to offer new functionalities.

Plexus has received financing as part of the Telius State-Region Project Contract. It is a shared research platform.

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.