International lab to focus on interface of AI and humans

A new international research laboratory comprising French and Australian scientists has been launched and will focus on how humans interact and live with autonomous systems.

Organisers say this is an area of research at the interface of artificial intelligence, computer science, engineering, technology, human factors and psychology.

The full title of the ‘French Australian Laboratory for Humans-Autonomous Agents Teaming’ has been shortened to CROSSING.

The new laboratory, whose launch was announced on 22 February, is the result of collaboration between the French National Centre for Scientific Research or CNRS, three universities in South Australia and the French technological university IMT Atlantique.

The Naval Group, a global and major French defence contractor specialising in naval-based defence platforms and marine renewable energy, is the only industrial partner. The group employs 13,000 people in 18 countries.

A flagship international collaboration mechanism is used by CNRS, France’s leading scientific research centre. The new international research lab is called ‘CROSSING’ because it represents the crossover of ideas that is at the heart of the collaboration.

“The CROSSING lab will bring together leading French and Australian scientists from artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer science, engineering, psychology and human factors,” says Professor Jean-Philippe Diguet, director of the lab.

“They will work together to tackle important challenges in finding new ways for systems and humans to work together.”

Significant advances

Diguet says the outcomes could provide significant advances in the way operators use control systems on ships, maintenance platforms in industry, or services to assist within the home, as well as the way these systems are developed to assist and improve human performance.

The CROSSING lab will join a network of more than 70 international research laboratories but will be one of only five international research laboratories with industry partners. It will join the ranks of other labs in global innovation hubs, including those in Singapore, China, Japan and the United States.

Professor Anna Ma-Wyatt from the University of Adelaide’s school of psychology is co-director of the new lab.

She says the laboratory will be a unique multidisciplinary facility, providing an opportunity for South Australia to be at the forefront of research into frontier technologies highly relevant to future industries.

New ways to work with robots

“At the CROSSING lab we will develop new ways for humans to work with robots and autonomous systems,” Ma-Wyatt says.

“Human operators will cooperate with high-level automata, robots or adaptive information systems able to produce knowledge and to explore the physical or informational environment on their own.”

She says Adelaide’s Australian Institute for Machine Learning brings expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning, while the University of South Australia has expertise in sleep and fatigue analysis, and the University of Adelaide in ‘active vision’.

IMT Atlantique has expertise and facilities dealing with virtual and augmented reality and embedded and human-centric AI, while researchers at Flinders University focus on autonomous systems, human factors and Industry 4.0 advanced manufacturing, Ma-Wyatt says.

As an industrial partner, she says the Naval Group will share its expertise in areas including embedded intelligence, optimised architectures, unmanned vehicles, industry of the future and human performance measurement.

Professor Peter Høj, vice-chancellor of the University of Adelaide, said the CNRS had more than 70 international research labs around the world, but the CROSSING lab would be the first international research lab in Australia, and only the fifth of its type in the world.

“The CROSSING lab is another dimension in which IMT Atlantique is joining forces with academic and industrial partners to strengthen our positioning in Australia,” Høj said.

“IMT Atlantique has especially set cooperation axes with Naval Group Research – and, more generally, the Naval Group – about submarine communication and detection, ocean monitoring as well as digital transformation at different levels of practice in industrial management, command and control,” he said.