Are “virtual children” the future of education? Focus on Justine Cassell

Meet Justine Cassell, PRAIRIE chair, credited with developing the Embodied Conversational Agent (ECA), a virtual human capable of interacting with humans using both language and nonverbal behavior.

Justine Cassell

Justine Cassell investigates the role that the ECA can play in children’s lives, as a virtual peer support for learning.

Invisible companions are closely related to a child’s environment, and most results from psychological studies agree that imaginary friends perform a positive function and promote children’s development.

“With imaginary friends, there is no scenario, the child’s imagination is not limited. This greatly helps them develop their creativity and build their ideal interlocutor, someone who is always there to listen to them. In my lab, we develop our virtual peers in such a way that it is difficult to gender them (boy or girl). We do this on purpose, so that the children can project onto themselves their own idea of who they want to talk to. So virtual peers play a bit of the role of a virtual friend.” says Justine Cassell.

Read more about this fascinating work here.


The National Digital Council publishes its first report

While the use of digital tools has greatly intensified in recent years, the unprecedented lockdowns of the past year have reinforced their omnipresence. The first theme addressed by the National Digital Council concerns the place of knowledge in the digital empowerment of citizens.

Recently the Council has published its first report on the topic. This work was led among others by Justine Cassell, PRAIRIE chair and a newly elected member of the French National Digital Council.

Justine Cassell says: “Digital tools are great for school education, where they complement traditional methods, and also for learning outside of school. What is often overlooked is that the very use of digital technology is a form of learning in itself, as it can enable peer-to-peer work. To benefit more, it is important to have a good digital culture and access to technologies that allow collective work. Thanks to this, we reduce the risk that the digital revolution will transform citizens into consumers of services, enslaved to technology.”

Read the press release and full report (in French).


PRAIRIE welcomes 6 new springboard researchers

PRAIRIE is excited to welcome onboard 6 new “tremplins” - young springboards researchers with exceptional scientific potential in the field of artificial intelligence.

The awardees appointed for the initial period of 3 years are:

Congratulations and welcome onboard!


Automotive industry and AI: launch of a new training program

Created in response to a call for projects of the SIA (Société des Ingénieurs de l'Automobile), the “IA Project Manager” training will be based on the research excellence of the PRAIRIE Institute, and the experience of Dauphine - PSL and Mines Paris - PSL in continuing education.

The new training program will help improve the skills of employees in the French automotive industry in the field of AI. They are strategic for the competitiveness of the French automotive industry and its technological independence.

The training offered by Université PSL will be mostly given by PRAIRIE chair holders, as well as by recognized professionals in the field. The 5-week program spread over 5 months will cover all the scientific and technical aspects of AI.

More information here (in French).


Applications for PRAIRIE Master fellowships 2021/22 are open!

PRAIRIE Master’s fellowships are accepting applications for four attractive programs:

The fellowships are available for M1 or M2 years and are awarded on academic criteria. Depending on the rules of each university, the fellowship amount can be maximum 1000€ per month.

Please find here the forms which need to be attached to your application dossier.


Poetry and AI

"If you can't come to Oupoco, Oupoco will come to you".

Discover Oupoco – the Poetry box, a new project which allows to generate sonnets from poems of French authors. Oupoco incorporates several thousand poems by 19th century poets, which were analyzed automatically by natural language analysis techniques. The project is coordinated by PRAIRIE chair, Thierry Poibeau.

Watch the presentation video and read more about the project here.

CNRS silver medal for Gabriel Peyré

Congratulations to Gabriel Peyré, PRAIRIE chair, who has been awarded the prestigious CNRS silver medal!

The silver medal is presented to researchers for the originality, quality, and importance of their work, which is recognised at national and international level.
More information here.


Women in Computer Vision: interview with Stéphanie Allassonnière

"We should review the very abstract teachings that are taught at schools and show students that math and physics can be useful also to regulate traffic, pollution, ecology, endangered wildlife and help doctors in their diagnostics." Read an exclusive interview with Stéphanie Allassonnière, PRAIRIE chair, which appeared in "Computer Vision News".

Stéphanie Allassonnière is a Professor of Mathematics at the School of Medicine, University of Paris and associated Professor in the applied Mathematics department of Ecole Polytechnique. She also manages master programs and masterclasses in AI in healthcare. Stéphanie is also the co-founder of Sonio, an AI company developing a companion tool for gynecologists and sonographers to help detect rare fetal disorders.

In the interview she talks about her passions and research path. Don’t miss!


Justine Cassell nominated to the French National Digital Council

On 11 February the French National Digital Council (Conseil national du numérique) announced the list of its new members.

Justine Cassell

Justine Cassell, PRAIRIE chair, has been elected for a 2 year term. The French National Digital Council is composed of 17 members appointed by the Prime Minister and 4 parliamentarians appointed by the Presidents of the Senate and the National Assembly.

Formed in 2011, the French National Digital Council is an institution which is independent from the Government and whose mission is to formulate opinions on any question relative to the impact of digital technology on society and the economy.


When AI speaks out

The popular and impressive “automatic language processing” applications can generate so natural texts that they are often indistinguishable from human content. How do they work? What are the risks they may pose? Read the latest article (in French) in “The Conversation” by Thierry Poibeau, PRAIRIE chair.