CROSS 2018


CROSS 2018: Selected projects

NB: The projects are listed in alphabetical order of their principal investigators.

Principal investigator: Sarah Kenderdine, EPFL (CDH-DHI)

Principal co-investigator: Denis Hauw, UNIL (SSP)


This digital humanities project is located at the intersection of intangible cultural heritage (ICH — martial arts), human computer interaction (HCI — immersive pedagogy) and the sports science (SS — psychology). Specifically, the project focuses on the use of an enactivist approach to learning using virtual reality—for the transmission of embodied knowledge systems through imitation (from digital-master to human-novice). The proposal is based on high-fidelity 3D motion data and, photographic, ultra-high-speed and green-screen video captured of expert kung fu practitioners of south Chinese traditions in Hong Kong (the ‘masters’). Through its interdisciplinary approach, this CROSS project aims to contribute to timely research questions concerning that way embodied traditions might ‘migrate’ from expert to novice through digital interfaces (virtual reality; VR) with important implications not only for ICH but also for the development of sports related pedagogy.

Principal investigator: Maria del Rio Carral, UNIL (SSP)

Principal co-investigator: Mohamed Bouri, EPFL (STI IMT LSRO)

Principal co-investigator: Hannes Bleuler, EPFL (STI IMT LSRO)

Principal co-investigator: Marie Santiago-Delefosse, UNIL (SSP)


This study aims to explore the needs concerning the use of lower limb exoskeletons to assist walk among elderly people with reduced mobility in Switzerland, across three contexts: medical settings for rehabilitation due to falling, a stroke or an operation; nursing residencies, and/or the household for daily use. The study considers a particular example of bioinspired robotics which imitates lower limb movements, as to identify attitudes, beliefs, and representations among ‘young-olds‘ (people aged between 65 and 79) with reduced mobility and informal/professional caregivers concerned by helping elderly people. It will evaluate the feasibility of adopting exoskeletons to increase autonomy among these potential users.

Principal investigator: Marianne Schmid-Mast, UNIL (HEC)

Principal co-investigator: Carmen Sandi, EPFL (SV LGC)


The aim of this project is to test how the self can become a role model for changes in interpersonal behavior. We use immersive virtual reality to study whether we learn new interpersonal skills (e.g., presenting in public) better when the behavior is modeled by a virtual human that has our face (rendered from photographs), called a doppelganger. We study whether the social stress elicited in learning new interpersonal skills is reduced when we see ourselves – our doppelganger – already performing the desired behavior. This project is concerned with testing how interpersonal skills training can profit from new technologies to reduce social stress during training and to accelerate learning.

The theme for the sixth edition of the Collaborative Research on Science and Society (CROSS) programme is imitation. The programme will fund cross-disciplinary projects between UNIL and EPFL for the year 2018.

Imitation has long been a part of science, art and human knowledge generally. Since antiquity, nature has served as an inexhaustible source of inspiration for researchers and engineers alike, offering endless examples to be imitated and imported into scientific and technical fields such as biology, materials science, architecture, communications and neuroscience. More recently, the term “biomimicry” has been coined to refer to imitations of the form, process or properties of living things. Explorations of art imitating nature, of course, go back millennia, spanning from Aristotle to Shakespeare to contemporary thinkers.

The ties between learning and imitation – in the sense of being able to recognize and reproduce actions – are no less longstanding and have been applied to a wide range of fields, including digital modelling, cognitive science, psychology, automatic text generation, literary study, robotics, economics and sociology.

Imitation is also central to the study of human society, particularly when seeking to shed light on practices aimed explicitly at reproducing specific behaviours within a given social or cultural field. The tools used to do so come from both the social and life sciences.

For this edition of the CROSS programme, priority will be given to projects that tackle the topic of imitation from an original and promising scientific perspective. The programme’s scientific committee nonetheless remains open to submissions on other topics.

The committee particularly wishes to encourage projects related to the digital humanities.

Please send your proposal as a single pdf file to [email protected].

The submission deadline for this year’s call for proposals is: September 30th 2017.

Contact: [email protected]