Research scientist — cum – artist

Ninon Lizé Mas­clef is the first artist “in res­i­dence” as we say, at the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab, the inno­va­tion cen­tre of Das­sault Sys­tèmes France. She is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly in charge of sci­en­tif­ic research with the UK start-up Ont­bo. Her research is spe­cialised in the analy­sis of emo­tions and music to devel­op brain-com­put­er interfaces. 

Aged 25, Ninon Lizé Mas­clef has already designed an emo­tion sen­sor mask with CATIA XGen­er­a­tive Design, using a 3D scan of her head to inte­grate an EEG sen­sor and fibre optics. She had nev­er used this soft­ware & hard­ware before. She was trained and assist­ed by the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab team and Sébastien Rosel — Tech­ni­cal Direc­tor at Das­sault Sys­tèmes. The mask was print­ed using pow­der sin­ter­ing (aka ‘SLS’ an acronym for Selec­tive Laser Sin­ter­ing). The EEG sen­sor is inte­grat­ed into the mask, with an elec­trode tar­get­ing the human frontal lobe. «The sig­nal is analysed to derive peaks in the gam­ma, beta, alpha, theta, delta bands, as well as atten­tion and relax­ation lev­els. The colours of the opti­cal fibres change accord­ing to these peaks of activ­i­ty and light ani­ma­tions occur, such as flick­ers or rip­ples when the per­son is very atten­tive or med­i­tat­ing,» explains the research sci­en­tist. She cer­tain­ly has a very orig­i­nal background.

She fol­lowed the Human­i­ties and Tech­nol­o­gy (Hutech) course at UTC-Com­pieg­ne, and pur­sued major­ing in Com­put­er Engi­neer­ing branch, with Data Min­ing as her elec­tive spe­cial­ty. «I was inter­est­ed above all in the inter­dis­ci­pli­nary nature of Hutech. I saw it as an effec­tive way of rec­on­cil­ing my attrac­tion for the human­i­ties, in par­tic­u­lar phi­los­o­phy, and the sci­ences. Indeed, as I had done a Bac­calau­re­ate L spe­cial­is­ing in visu­al arts and music. In fact, I changed my final lycée year, going from “pre­mière S” to “ter­mi­nale L” in visu­al arts,» she says. It was my high school phi­los­o­phy teacher who advised me to do the Human­i­ties and Tech­nol­o­gy course at UTC. What inter­ests me in engi­neer­ing is being able to think about the worlds that are pos­si­ble with tech­nol­o­gy, to imag­ine tech­nolo­gies that trans­form society”. »

Developing research and art

This mask was her final project for the «Fab­ri­cad­e­my: Tex­tile and Tech­nol­o­gy Acad­e­my» pro­gramme at the Fablab of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Paris-Saclay. An inten­sive pro­gramme that mix­es art and sci­ence and where she learned to use 3D print­ing, laser cut­ting, milling and design­ing of print­ed cir­cuit boards (PCB) on tex­tile and skin, soft robots, bio­ma­te­ri­als. «I have want­ed to cre­ate a brain-com­put­er inter­face for a long time. Dur­ing the pro­gramme, I made a first inter­face from a Star Wars toy that con­tains an EEG sen­sor used to make a holo­gram move with thought. I devel­oped a script to “hijack” in essence, the func­tion of this toy to com­pose music with my brain­waves. Then I tried to build my own sen­sor cir­cuit,» she adds. “When I was design­ing the cir­cuit, I realised that an EEG is based on a mech­a­nism used to for ampli­fy the brain’s elec­tri­cal activ­i­ty, and I found a kind of poet­ry in that area. I got the idea for the shape of the mask from the elec­tri­cal fields from the brain found at the sur­face of the head. In a way, I am try­ing to ampli­fy, to increase our emo­tions, and at the same time, I ampli­fy the elec­tri­cal activ­i­ty to cap­ture those same emotions”.

Ninon Lizé Mas­clef has imag­ined a series of masks based on the prin­ci­ple of biofeed­back, for exam­ple with the heart­beat and facial mus­cles. In this way, she could have a fin­er char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of emo­tions. Dur­ing her year-long res­i­den­cy at Das­sault Sys­tèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE Lab, she planned work on sev­er­al art projects, includ­ing one on dreams. «I set up a pro­to­col to record my EEG sig­nal dur­ing sleep and anno­tate my dreams when I wake up in order to train a mod­el to recog­nise objects in the dream con­tent. The ulti­mate goal is to use arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence mod­els to gen­er­ate 3D scenes from dreams,» con­cludes the research sci­en­tist, who would like to defend a PhD the­sis in com­put­er sci­ence com­bin­ing deep learn­ing with neu­ro­science or art. And why not, cre­ate her own AI and Art research studio.

Le magazine

Novembre 2023 - N°61

Activité physique, nutrition & santé

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