Brief History

The Interactive Technologies Institute (ITI) of LARSYS was born in early 2009 from a group of researchers, who led its formation as an autonomous research unit emerging from the Carnegie Mellon International partnership. This original group of founders was able to get a very positive independent evaluation and join the Institute de Sistemas e Robótica
(ISR) Associated Laboratory (which in the 2013 national evaluation became LARSyS). At the end of 2009 M-ITI Associação – the not-for-profit institution – was created as an association between the Regional Government of Madeira and UMa and for the last 10 years the research unit and the not- for-profit institution co-existed.

ITI is the natural evolution of M-ITI into a wider national institutional context which can bring new opportunities for a more distributed sustainability model by drawing and providing career paths that dilute the tensions and focus on a single institution and region.

The new context of ITI enables our research unit to maintain its scientific independence while staying connected to the main stakeholders: LARSyS, Institute Superior Técnico, University of Madeira and the other academic institutions – like FBAUL or ISCTE – that would like to benefit to be associate with an excellence research center like LARSYS. This enables faculty from these institutions to have access and recognition of their research performance in their careers and the institutions to benefit
from the accreditation of their academic programs. This distinction also clearly separates the scientific management of the research team and
the financial and administrative management of the research grants and projects (including compliance with FCT regulations and legal procedures).

ITI is dedicated to the interdisciplinary field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and encloses Psychology and Social Sciences, Computer Science, and Creativity and Design as core scientific areas. The cross- pollination of these areas allows thriving application areas directed towards societal needs. Assistive Technologies, Learning and Digital Culture, and Sustainability have been identified by ITI as main application areas to build capacity and advance innovation.

Vision

A center of design for global change, creating socio-technical systems suited to holistic challenges.

Global changes – in climate or demographics; labor systems or capital flows; sustainable resource management or energy efficiency; memes or pandemics – are happening at a pace that could not have been anticipated a few decades ago. Our planet’s newest mass extinction is being ushered in by the very same technologies and means of production that were the crowning accomplishments and best practices of our grandparents. It is clear that many of our approaches must change swiftly and radically. Yet our habits of thinking, organizing, and living are largely configured to address the challenges and goals of prior epochs, and most of our tools still reflect and support those old habits. Our current technologies and material culture impede rather than enable our ability to live appropriately. We must mindfully design new materialities that foster inclusive, innovative, and reflective societies in a changing world.

ITI aims to step into the new millennium by developing tools, systems, and techniques better suited to address its challenges. In particular: the distribution and use of natural resources, the societal and personal use of energy, global inequality of resources and opportunities, and the relationship of production and consumption all require serious reform. Reducing inequalities and social exclusion in Europe, overcoming economic and financial crises, and tackling unemployment require new ideas, strategies, and governance structures that bring opportunities to the young and creative generations and leverage the reflective European society to position Europe as a global actor.

The long-term vision of ITI is an excellence center of design for global change, aimed at identifying fresh approaches to the design of new technologies, new means of production, and new political configurations that are better suited to the global challenges of this century. Some of these challenges might be unique to Europe but others are shared by communities around the world. By projecting ITI into the future of challenge-based research we envision exploring, designing for, and at times even anticipating global critical situations and opportunities for change. Strategically placed at the intersection of the American, European and African sides of the Atlantic, ITI is poised to play a crucial role in connecting, exchanging, and contributing to the innovation across the continents with which Portugal enjoys a strong relationship. As a multi-disciplinary center combining natural and social scientists, engineers, humanists, designers, and artists, its output will be focused on the area of applied science and human-centered technology. We will develop and share methods, working proofs, and “spin-off enterprises” focused on rebalancing the relationship of people and environment, production and consumption, the local and the global.

Our Mission

Advances in ICT have fundamentally changed the way people work and live across the globe, a trend that is accelerating as the influence and impact of ICTs spread to ever greater scopes of activity. Computing has moved beyond merely increasing productivity at work to providing individuals with unprecedented access to information and powerful new ways to communicate. In the decades since the computer became personal,

the relevance and scope of the field of HCI has grown in tandem with computing technology. Research in ICT no longer asks “what can we build?” but instead “what should we build?” HCI researchers and practitioners, with their focus on user needs, tasks and experiences are well suited to address these new kinds of questions.
HCI is the discipline concerned with the design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use and
with the study of major phenomena surrounding them. ITI rests on the following principles:

  • Computing technology must match with human capabilities, taking into account the needs and desires of users and other stakeholders, and economical, cultural and social constraints;
  • To achieve this goal, we need to:

i) understand human behaviour and development through social and ethical analyses based on empirical studies of how people adapt and use technology;

ii) develop technology, tools and design methods that support efficiency and creativity in design; and

iii)adopt a risk-taking attitude based on creative ideas for new ways of envisioning interactive technologies and services that have an impact in the world;

    • Attempts to reach this goal will lead to general theories and methods that enhance and broaden the field.

 

Strategy and Research Infrastructure

ITI will serve as a hub for a global network to ideate, co-create, test, and document new forms of local/global production for global challenges. The goal of these efforts is not just the generation of new understanding of problem solving in an era of cheap information, but also tangible proofs of organisation through the creation of enterprises that embody and engage in that problem solving. Our research will result in human/animal/technical networked systems that are both research platforms and, more importantly, working examples of global coordination and problem solving.

ITI’s research focus will be on developing techniques and technologies that:

  • Investigate how nature and communities are affected by – and technologies that can empower them to confront – natural, political, and economic global pressures – in particular supporting the transition to reliable, sustainable and competitive energy systems. This will lead to a climate change resilient economy and society and help to explore the opportunities related to aquatic living and  marine research and bio-based industries for the blue economy;
    • Invent new design techniques to best respond to, or shepherd, complex and interrelated natural, social, and cultural global issues – that could help repositioning Europe in a changing world through new ideas, strategies and governance structures that integrate
      and inspire the younger and more creative generations leveraging Europe’s cultural heritage to build a more inclusive, innovative and reflexive society;

  • Develop personal, business, scientific, and civic technological platforms for better understanding and situating actions, choices, and self in a global perspective – enabling the transition towards a green economy and society through eco-innovation and developing comprehensive and sustained global environmental observation and information systems.
     
    ITI develops a unique research infrastructure that leverages the identification and demonstration of breakthrough research and design situated outside of global centers, including active research in, and with, the global south for which Lisbon, as the only European Atlantic capital, and Madeira an historic outposts for transnational EU cooperation, are well positioned. This research infrastructure will enable exploration of Future Coastal Urban Environments which have a particular relationship with the oceans by advancing sensing, communication, tracking and monitoring solutions to increase our understanding of the underlying resources and ecosystems. This test bed will explore the potential of healthy marine ecosystems to provide a range of services with high potential social and economic benefits for the blue economy. The test bed will focus on building a symbiotic relationship between cyber-physical and ecological systems thus becoming a platform for scientific collaboration between researchers interested in biodiversity, climate change, engineering, material science and design.