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Chair of Computer Science


Shaping the imaginary world: from 3D digital creation to animated virtual worlds


As the new holder of the Chair of Computer Science at the Collège de France, Marie-Paule Cani, Professor at Grenoble INP-Ensimag and head of the Imagine research team at Inria, shares her vision of the 3D creation revolution currently under way in a lecture which is accessible to all, from laymen to scientists to professionals in other sectors, at 6 PM on Tuesday 17th March at Ensimag, Lecture Theatre E at the University of Grenoble.

Marie-Paule Cani first delivered this lecture on 15th February as her inaugural lecture at the Collège de France.

The general public is very keen to learn about techniques that can be used to personalise a virtual or physical environment with one's own creations. 3D creation can be used to create objects that will later be printed or fabricated (giving the creator an opportunity to transform imaginary objects into material ones!) and to design virtual worlds before exploring them. Many sectors (fashion, accessories, etc.) have a high demand for personalisation software.

Computer graphics holds a special place amongst image technologies.  It allows numerical content to be created in the form of 3D geometric objects, which might move and deform over time, and then makes it visible by taking snapshots of these mathematical objects. A summary image is produced as an output. These images may be played in sequence to display animated content.

Virtual prototyping, animated film, special effects

Applications range from virtual prototyping (design of numerical models of objects being designed) to the production of 3D animated films and special effects and the creation of real-time virtual worlds for video games and training simulators (also known as "real games"). Scientists working in other fields use them to express their theories or calculation results in visual form.
According to Marie-Paule Cani, "whilst we hope these breakthroughs will satisfy the needs of the general public, we also hope they will make it possible to generalise even more, and facilitate the use of graphical simulation in other scientific disciplines and industrial sectors. Digital models are already essential in those areas, but specialists from another sector are often called on to create and process them. This is what happens, for example, in geological research and oil exploration. Putting graphical simulation and creation in everyone's grasp (via tablets used to design and handle 3D content easily, and to animate it) would revolutionise working methods in the fields of engineering, design, and science.

I also want to highlight the fact that computing is not an occupation form men—at least, not exclusively! I am deeply saddened by the gradual abandonment of the specialities in this field by young girls. Over the last two decades, we have seen the creation of a modern stereotype that leads young girls away from this fascinating branch of science that creates jobs and has a great need for diversity. "

Marie-Paule Cani

Marie Paule Cani Marie Paule Cani, ERC Grant 2011 - © Inria / Photo Kaksonen

Former pupil of the Ecole Normale Supérieure and holder of a doctorate from Université Paris XI. She has been a professor at Grenoble INP - Ensimag since 1997, and is head of the Imagine research team at Inria. She was most notably awarded the title Eurographics Fellow in 2005, followed by the Irène Joliot-Curie mentoring prize in 2007 for her actions in support of women scientists. She was elected as a member of the Academia Europaea in 2013.

Her research activities focus on the synthesis of animated virtual worlds, which has led her to develop geometric modelling and animation methods.

The annual Computer Science Chair at Collège de France

The annual "Computer Science Chair" was created in 2009 by the Collège de France in partnership with Inria. It welcomes a new holder each year: a recognised specialist from one field (programming languages, security and protocol analysis, robotics, etc.).  This annual chair is a sign of a common desire to promote the importance of the scientific discipline and the need to give it its own rightful place.

Grenoble INP: facts and figures

  • Federates six engineering schools: Ense3 (energy, water, environment), Ensimag (computing and applied mathematics), Esisar (advanced systems and networks),  industrial engineering, Pagora (paper, printed and biomaterials communication), Phelma (physics, electronics, materials) and the INP preparatory school (integrated preparatory cycle) ;
  • 1200 engineering graduates per year, i.e. 40,000 on all five continents since its creation ;
  • Joint leader of 37 research laboratories ; 
  • Second in the Usine Nouvelle list of "top 100 engineering schools", 2014 ;
  • Top of Industrie et Technologies magazine's 2014 list of innovative engineering schools.


  • Established in 1967, INRIA is the only public research institute entirely dedicated to Computer Science.
  • At the interface between Computer Science and Mathematics, the 3,400 researchers at INRIA invent the digital technology of the future.
  • Coming from the world's top universities, their work fuses fundamental and applied research with imagination and flair. They focus on concrete problems, collaborating with researchers in the public and private sectors in France and worldwide, and transfer the results of their work to innovative companies.
  • INRIA research teams publish around 5,000 papers every year.
  • Over 120 start-up have been created as a result of their work.