52: Machine Learning at the UTC-Heudiasyc lab

Professor Philippe Bonnifait, also Vice-Chairman of the scientific council of the University of Technology of Compiègne (UTC) former Director of a CNRS research group (GDR) in robotics between 2013 and 2017. Since January 2018, he has been Director of the UTC-Heudiasyc Laboratory, created in 1981. This state-of-the-art laboratory houses, in particular, the CID (Knowledge, Uncertainties, Data) team dedicated to research in artificial intelligence.

52: Machine Learning at the UTC-Heudiasyc lab

Virtual reality serving the cause of training

Senior lecturer, Domitile Lourdeaux is also a member of the Knowledge, Uncertainties, Data (CID) team at UTC-Heudiasyc, a joint UTC/CNRS unit. Her research focuses on customized adaptive systems, more specifically on everything related to virtual reality and training.

A field that she has been working on since her PhD thesis at the École des Mines de Paris: a CIFRE thesis funded by the SNCF on "Virtual Reality and Training of TGV Drivers", conducted between 1998 and 2001. She pays particular attention to the pedagogical objectives or "how," she says, "virtual reality could either improve existing training or complement it".

Initially trained as a computer scientist, she immediately refused to address this question solely from a technical point of view. "I started working with ergonomists, education specialists and also end-users," she explains. Once her PhD was completed, she stayed for four years at the École des Mines as an associate research officer, joined UTC-Compiegne in 2005 as a lecturer and continued her research based on concrete needs, always in conjunction with industrialists.

Her first project resulted from a meeting with researchers from the National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks (Ineris). The objective? "To ensure the training of
subcontracted operators who work on high-risk sites. This was all the more topical because of the explosion at the AZF plant in Toulouse, a tragedy that happened only a short time earlier. Explosion due to human errors in subcontracting," says Domitile Lourdeaux. A project that mobilized three PhD theses and obtained significant funding from the National Research Agency (ANR) but also from the Region. "Usually, virtual reality is used to train in a technical gesture or procedure. But I wanted to distance myself from this schema. Since we are in high-risk areas, I wanted the learner to be able to make, possibly make mistakes and see the consequences of his mistakes," she adds.

Since then, Domitile Lourdeaux has been working on a series of new projects. This is illustrated by one on "training aeronautical operators in aircraft assembly" in partnership with STELIA Aerospace (Méaulte). Another innovative project? VICTEAMS (2014-2019) conducted in partnership with LIMSI in Orsay, specialists in cognitive ergonomics, the Val-de-Grâce military medical school and the Paris City Fire Brigade. Project that will surely be pursued.

What is the particularity of the STELIA and VICTEAMS projects? The answer is the level of integration of artificial intelligence (AI). "Since we couldn't afford to put dozens of developers, like video game manufacturers for example, we came up with the idea of integrating AI to create scenarios," she points out.

"Prior to the STELIA project, the trainer selected the level of the learner and then gave him/her the learning objectives, for example, to work on a particular safety rule. The scripting system then generated learning situations based on these objectives. In the aeronautics project, we wanted to create a dynamic learner profile, i.e., to ensure that the system was able to detect the learner's skills in order to propose interesting situations. We therefore start from beliefs about his ability to manage, or not, the situations he/she is confronted with. This is called the “proximal zone” of development. In other words, that one has skills and is capable of acquiring new skills, close to one's own skills. To do this, genetic algorithms and belief functions have been used to gradually extend this proximal zone," she explains.

With VICTEAMS (see box), Domitile Lourdeaux goes further. "I wanted to emphasize collaborative work by creating virtual teams. The involvement of different players and their interaction requires an even finer degree of scripting. This is notably the case for training medical leaders in the management of a massive influx of injured people," she explains.