Technology platform

Tools advancing science

Changed on 11/06/2021
Experimentation is one of the cornerstones of the scientific process. In order to obtain data, validate theories or prove concepts, researchers at the Inria Bordeaux – Sud-Ouest centre use a range of technological platforms which meet highly specific needs. The choice of equipment is based on multiple parameters. Insight
Enregistrement d'un couple instrument-musicien dans un caisson insonorisé
© Inria / Photo B. Fourrier

A national aim with local footholds

In its Objectives and Performance Contract 2019-2023Inria reiterates its aim to boost support for technological development. One aspect of this action focuses on the scientific tools used to carry out experiments. In fact, a computer researcher’s work does not only consist in writing programmes or designing algorithms. It often involves experimental procedures using all forms of ad hoc equipment.

The Inria Bordeaux – Sud-Ouest centre possesses a range of tools which reflect the diversity of the studies it carries out. For instance, it boasts a virtual reality platform, a soundproof room for modelling musical waves, or electrode headsets to study brain-machine interfaces.

How is this equipment chosen? Several principles come into play. Firstly, these tools all share a common denominator: they are related to digital science in one way or another. The next question is to determine whether it is more advantageous to acquire in-house equipment or to rely on partner infrastructures.

The in-house solution prevails when research is based on themes that are highly central to Inria’s activity and for which the Institute masters the underlying technology. Such is the case of the PlaFRIM cluster. Geared towards the optimisation of parallel computing, this server cluster constitutes the main digital experimentation tool for the Centre’s teams.

When additional needs emerge, pooling agreements provide access to external resources. With regard to computing, this includes machines owned by the CEA [Atomic Energy Commission], the CNRS [French National Scientific Research Centre] and the CINES [National Computing Centre for Higher Education], in addition to other European structures.

A certain number of these tailor-made tools incorporate research results. They constitute prototypes which validate concepts, in addition to opening up new exploratory fields. For example, a world exclusive digitalisation bench for textiles, which can even reproduce the varied reflectance of the weave. This tool took five years to develop.

Finally, when the theme becomes trans-disciplinary and expands beyond the core of the Institute’s activity, the teams turn to tools held by their partners. This is notably the case in the health field, with the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, IHU Liryc [Electrophysiology and Heart Modelling Institute] and the Institut Bergonié [Cancer Institute].

The Experimentation and Development Department

Technological support is provided by Inria’s Experimentation and Development Department (SED). Hervé Mathieu, from the Bordeaux-based department, explains:

There are ten engineers in the Bordeaux – Sud-Ouest SED. We work alongside researchers. We contribute to the development of experimental protocols. We are often quoted as co-authors for scientific publications.

Our current experiences

Adélaïde Genay, doctorante de l'équipe-projet Potioc qui utilise les lunettes Hololens pour visualiser des hologrammes en réalité augmentée

Viewing holograms through the Hololens augmented reality headset

User : Adélaïde Genay, doctoral student in the Potioc project team.

"By wearing an augmented reality headset, I can see and interact with virtual avatars directly in the real world." Adélaïde Genay 

Vision d'un avatar virtuel à travers un casque de réalité augmentée

Viewing holograms through the Hololens augmented reality headset

User : Adélaïde Genay, doctoral student in the Potioc project team.

"This technology allows me to embody a virtual body with a size, morphology or appearance different from my own. I am interested in the impact of this embodiment on the user's perception." Adélaïde Genay 

Mesure de l'activité cérébrale, EEG (électro-encéphalographie) d'une personne

Electroencephalographic measurements on brain-computer interfaces

Users : Pauline Dreyer and Smeety Pramij, researcher and PhD student in the Potioc project team.

"Having a dedicated experimental room is essential for us to conduct our many user studies on the control of brain-computer interfaces." Fabien Lotte 

Mesure EEG (électro-encéphalographique)

Electroencephalographic measurements on brain-computer interfaces

User : Smeety Pramij, PhD student in the Potioc project team.

"For our work on brain-computer interfaces, and in particular on human learning to control these interfaces, we need to do many experiments with real users. We therefore spend a lot of time in the experimental room with our devices for measuring brain activity (-EEG - electroencephalography)." Fabien Lotte 

Mesures acoustiques dans une cabine insonorisée

Acoustic measurements in a soundproof booth

Users : Augustin Ernoult and Tobias Van Baarsel, researchers in the Makutu project team.

"The Makutu team's research on musical instruments is based on simulations-experiments comparisons, including acoustic measurements in the audible frequencies (20Hz, 20kHz), on isolated musical instruments or on the musician-instrument pair." Augustin Ernoult

Mesures acoustiques d'une clarinette dans une cabine insonorisée

Acoustic measurements in a soundproof booth

User : Augustin Ernoult, researcher in the Makutu project team.

"We are measuring the input impedance of a clarinet, a quantity that illustrates how the instrument reacts to an acoustic stimulus. The signals are recorded in a soundproof booth, which allows us to have an excellent signal-to-noise ratio." Augustin Ernoult 

Coupole d'expérimentation

Digitisation of textiles within a digital acquisition platform

Five years of research and design, with the help of internal collaborators and industrialists, were required to develop an opto-numerical acquisition prototype to digitise the appearance of rare textiles.