The most important element in most communication systems is a human being. In most cases, it is a human being that sends and receives information. Cognitive technology refers to technology that utilizes knowledge of the human and animal neurocognitive functions in constructing, applying and evaluating information and communication technology. The computational capacity of computers is increasing at an accelerating speed. It will probably exceed that of the human brain in the near future. To fully exploit this capacity, knowledge of human cognitive functions will have an increasingly important role.
The Cognitive Science and Technology Research Group studies neurocognitive mechanisms of human communication, especially audiovisual signal perception and integration mechanisms. In this research, we use both behavioural and neurophysiological methods. Another major research area is the development of an Artificial Person, a model of the communicating human being. One of the main motivations to start the Artificial Person development was to have a well-controlled stimulus for basic research. On the other hand, it may be used in various applications.
The human audiovisual integration mechanisms can be studied in behavioural experiments, in which various aspects of the stimuli as well as the state of the subjects are manipulated. In order to illuminate the nature of audiovisual integration, we also construct system level models, which in turn can guide future experiments and provide ideas for automatic audiovisual speech recognition and synthesis. To do these experiments we have built a behavioural laboratory with three experimental cubicles. One of the cubicles has been acoustically improved by double interior walls, lowered ceiling, muffled ventilation and semi-floating floor. It is used for demanding experiments, while the two others are used for less demanding purposes and student exercises. The furnishing in the cabin includes active loudspeakers or good-quality headphones for auditory stimuli and high quality monitors for visual stimuli.
In the neurocognitive studies of audiovisual signal perception and integration mechanisms we are using noninvasive brain research methods. Magnetoencephalographic (MEG) measurements have been done in collaboration with the Low Temperature Laboratory of HUT. We have recently started electroencephalographic (EEG) measurements in our new laboratory. With our present system, we can record signals from 28 EEG channels. We use the same data collection unit and software (NeuroMag) which are used in MEG recordings. In December 2000, the final contract was signed to obtain a new 3-T MRI instrument to HUT. The instrument will be installed in the end of 2001. Our research group will be among the principal users of the instrument.