Launch of the ONE project "One is Not Enough": meeting with Michel Beaudouin-Lafon

Changed on 25/03/2020
Last spring Michel Beaudouin-Lafon, member of EX-SITU, a joint LRI and Inria Saclay Île-de-France centre team, received an ERC Advanced Grant for his ONE project. The aim of the project is to fundamentally rethink the basic principles and the conceptual model of interactive systems, in order to enable users to take ownership of their digital environment. The project begins on 1 October 2016 with the arrival to the team of a first PhD student. The project foresees the recruitment of five PhD students, two engineers and proposes six years of post-docs.

The keyword of the ONE project is "flexibility": to have less predefined and less rigid IT systems, and to be able to adapt them to different types of uses, input devices, etc...

"We started from the observation that current systems, designed during the 1970s for office tasks, are no longer relevant due to the explosion in the number of users and types of use", explains Michel Beaudouin-Lafon. We are still in the age of personal computing; collective use is still too complicated. We are overrun by computers in every shape and form that do not always synchronise with each other, that communicate little or not at all between each other: each application and each software has its own rules.

According to Michel Beaudouin-Lafon, "we have got used to this state of affairs, yet there is no reason for it to be this way. If we want digital tools to be more flexible, more open, compatible with each other, they need to be based on unified principles" . Hence the name of the ERC, Unified Principles of Interaction . In the world of computing, once software has been programmed to do something, it does not know how to do anything else.

Let us forget what has been done and imagine a world without the constraints of current systems.

This ambitious project is being launched on 1 October 2016 thanks to the ERC Advanced Grant, and will follow a process combining three lines of research that will feed off each other:

  • Study the interaction capacities of the human being with his environment.
  • Define a new conceptual model: what are these unified principles?
  • Implement these principles to prove that it works.

"This project calls into question the monolithic economic model of current software. However we are only at the invention stage. The road towards innovation and potentially a technological break can take around twenty years", Michel Beaudouin-Lafon explains.  "I am convinced that what is currently being done is not working. Things need to undergo a profound change. Can this idea of having much more open types of content than those of today work on a large scale? This remains an open question, but if we don't try, we will never find the answer ."

Michel Beaudouin-Lafon is seeking PhD students and post-docs for the duration of the ERC; to find out more, or simply keep up with news of the project, click here.