From left to right: Walter Haas (Innovation Salzburg), Andreas Kugi (AIT), Henrik Lehnert ( PLUS), Nicola Hüsing (PLUS), Governor Wilfried Haslauer, Manfred Tscheligi (Lab Director, PLUS). Photo: Paris Lodron University of Salzburg/APA-Fotoservice/Franz Neumayr

18. September 2023

At the Interface Between Human and Computer: The New III.Lab in Salzburg

The triple I in the lab name stands for “Intelligent Interfaces Innovation,” describing research at the intersection of humans and technologies. The lab was inaugurated on September 15, 2023, and is available for collaborations with companies, emphasizing planned application-oriented research.

Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Mobile Work, and digitization in all aspects of life—the technological development is advancing rapidly, raising many questions along the way. This includes considerations on how people use computers, which technologies can be leveraged well and even better in the future, the experiences individuals have in utilizing new technologies, and how future technologies should be designed to benefit society and industry. The new III.Lab will address these questions and build upon the previous research of the Institute for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) at the University of Salzburg. To achieve this, HCI is collaborating with the Austrian Institute for Technology (AIT)—Austria’s largest non-university research institution. Both teams, totaling around 70 employees in Vienna and Salzburg, are led by Manfred Tscheligi. He is a Professor of Human-Computer Interaction, heading the Department of Artificial Intelligence and Human Interfaces at PLUS. Simultaneously, since 2017, he has been the Head of the Center for Technology Experience at AIT. Tscheligi is recognized as an HCI pioneer in Austria—in research and education, as well as in industrial applications.

AIT brings expertise, personnel, and a significant portion of the funding, which is currently set for five years and supported by AIT (3 million euros), the University of Salzburg (1 million euros), and the state of Salzburg (1 million euros). Governor Wilfried Haslauer is convinced of the investment: “The rapidly advancing digital transformation in all areas of life and business, as well as the high dynamics in technological development, are of utmost importance for societal and economic developments, as well as for the future competitiveness of regions and locations in an increasingly knowledge-based economy. With the Intelligent Interfaces Innovation Lab, we are further expanding our federal state as a strong digital competence location.” This investment aligns with the science and innovation strategy of the state of Salzburg, where the digital location of Salzburg is anchored. The lab is also a notable addition to the Faculty of Digital and Analytical Sciences at the University of Salzburg.

What do the 3 i’s stand for?

  • Intelligent: The first “I” stands for the development of future interaction forms. Machines and computers are “intelligent” partners for humans. Artificial intelligence must serve humans and not the other way around (Keyword: Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence).
  • Interfaces: The second “I” stands for good, optimally usable user interfaces and future forms of interaction (the part of the technology that users interact with). The diversity of users also plays a crucial role. Technological developments enable new forms of interaction.
  • Innovation: The third “I” stands for the use of innovative interdisciplinary methods and experimental implementations, application-oriented innovations, and the development of future-proof solutions.

In combination, it represents an interdisciplinary and important topic for the future. Walter Haas, Managing Director of Innovation Salzburg, is also convinced: “The interaction between people and technology has become commonplace for us since smartphones. It works intuitively and simply in this context. However, technological possibilities are becoming increasingly extensive, such as in industrial automation with AI support, autonomous driving, and much more that we may not even be able to imagine yet. The III.Lab deals with how we, as non-programmers, can handle such complex technologies. The Salzburg location once again demonstrates with this lab that here, the future is being thought of and shaped.

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