Fertile Ground for Unique Creativity

IDC Herzliya is prioritizing the study of innovative technologies through its Master's degrees as well as through its Innovation Center due to open next year

Ariel Rodal-Spieler and Tamara Mizroch Promoted Content
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Students at IDC’s milab study how humans interact with robotic devices
Ariel Rodal-Spieler and Tamara Mizroch Promoted Content
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“The revolution taking place in science and technology requires up-to-date and innovative academic frameworks to prepare IDC students to face the new and ever-changing reality we live in,” says Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC's Founder and President. “IDC Herzliya introduced the interdisciplinary approach, which integrates various disciplines within the social sciences, to Israeli academia. In recent years, IDC has been promoting the ‘new interdisciplinarity’ – research and learning that integrates the fields of technology, computer science, neuroscience and biology into the social sciences. With the new Innovation Center, IDC is implementing a structural change that we foresee as enriching the entire university with new and innovative ways of dealing with the changing realities of our lives.”

As part of this new approach, the IDC Innovation Center will bring prominent researchers and experts from diverse fields of knowledge together under one roof, into one learning and research space, creating fertile ground for unique creativity.

Innovation Center to open in 2022

Indeed, IDC Herzliya has unveiled plans for a unique, world-class institute for innovation on campus. The new IDC Innovation Center, to be housed in the Drahi Innovation Building, is slated for completion in 2022 and is made possible thanks to the support of the Patrick and Lina Drahi Foundation and Joey Low. With an unprecedented commitment to the application of science and technology for empirical multidisciplinary research, IDCIC will be the first center of its kind in Israel.

The Center will engage in cutting-edge areas of research, including human-computer interaction, computerized decision making, data science, brain research, synthetic biology, sustainability, healthcare, business, government, law and regulation, and national security. Among the existing IDC institutes and labs that will be housed in the Center are the Artificial Intelligence Lab, the Data Science Institute, the Media Innovation Lab, the Augmented and Virtual Reality Lab, the Computational Biology Lab, the Brain Imaging Lab, and the Cryptographic Theory and Applications Lab. In the framework of IDCIC, students will work on applied research projects together with industry partners.

Prof. Noam Lemelshtrich Latar, head of IDCIC, says the Center's goal is “to initiate integrated research in response to social and economic challenges. We will work in collaboration with other academic, industry, government and public sector partners in Israel, as well as global institutions, on applied projects.”

The new IDC Innovation Center, to be housed in the Drahi Innovation Building, will engage in cutting-edge researchCredit: Digital illustration by robinsalliance architects

IDCIC's Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Jonathan Giron, says, “Our vision includes establishing an incubator for IDC start-ups specializing in human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, and big data innovations, and applications in areas including Fintech, disaster management, counter-terrorism, autonomous vehicles, and machine learning. We would also like to establish mentorship programs and internships for students. We are welcoming partners from industry and other areas to join us in this exciting venture.”

Cutting-edge projects

Even before IDCIC is completed, a number of projects have already been taking place:

XR@IDC – XR, or augmented, virtual and mixed reality, offers participants simulated reality experiences. The XR@IDC project aims to develop novel content, applications and tools for a wide range of activities across the IDC campus. “IDC aims to be the first campus in the world to adopt XR technologies on a large scale for cognitive research and the development of new education platforms,” says Lemelshtrich Latar. “Immersive VR technology enables participants to experience and apply complex concepts in a whole new way while creating a personalized learning journey.”

IDC students have already been using virtual reality technology to study Business, Law, Psychology and Sustainability. Business students, for example, were able to see the pandemic's economic effects on a business by using virtual reality goggles to study a Tel Aviv bar. “The transition from analog teaching practices to digital ones is going to affect the world of teaching and what teaching looks like,” says Yifat Kedar, Director of the XR@IDC Immersive Studio.

SynBio Institute – Synthetic biology is an expanding area of research that already has applications in medicine, and that could help tackle other global challenges in areas such as defense, energy, and water. In collaboration with Voigt Synthetic Biology Lab at MIT, IDCIC is creating Israel's first national synthetic biology center, the SynBio Institute, which will catapult Israel onto the global stage in the field. Dr. Yuval Dorfan has been appointed the institute's Director after leading a synthetic biology project at MIT.

Diplomacy 2030 – The Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy, headed by former Israel Ambassador to the U.K. and U.N. Amb. Ron Prosor, has launched the Diplomacy 2030 program, which works to develop a new vision for Israel's foreign policy and identify diplomatic opportunities in an ever-changing world. Prosor says foreign policy and diplomacy will need to adapt to help support countries as the fallout from the pandemic emerges, and must work to bolster connectivity and digitalization. The Diplomacy 2030 program aims to promote innovative diplomacy, identify best practices for tackling current challenges, and advance significant reform of the Israeli foreign service.

MA degree in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)

HCI is the field of research for human computer interaction, including interaction between humans and robots. In the near future, physical objects in our homes and workplaces will have robotic abilities and autonomous behavior. The team at the Media Innovation Lab (milab) at IDC Herzliya is working on solving some of the most interesting questions facing humans today: how should we interact with such “smart” devices? Can such objects “understand” people? Can a robot’s motions communicate feelings? IDC milab was founded by Dr. Oren Zuckerman, who completed his PhD at the MIT Media Lab and wanted to create a similar type of lab at IDC – one that would empower students to create meaningful interactive experiences and study how technologies influence human behavior.

One of milab’s recent projects, led by Zuckerman, Dr. Hadas Erel, Ofir Sadka and Ron Gissin, explored genuine human-robot collaboration by researching how people share control and what non-verbal communication cues people use to naturally interact. The team created a prototype of an anagram word game and studied how people construct words together with a robot. The findings show that humans and robots can collaborate successfully, if the appearance is authentic and if the robotic object behavior is designed to not violate people's sense of control.

In another project by Dr. Hadas Erel and a team of students, the milab team studied how robotic objects impact fundamental psychological needs such as belonging and meaningful existence. The possible impact robotic objects may have on human behavior is an emerging field of study. The milab team looked at an interaction between one person and two non-humanoid robots and evaluated if the extent of human inclusion in a play activity can lead to social exclusion. The robotic objects were set up to play a game of passing a ball to one another and to the human. By manipulating the amount of passes to the human, the study assessed if exclusion by simple robotic objects could lead to intense feelings of ostracism. The results were surprising. Humans felt feelings of rejection and a sense of isolation and social exclusion when the ball was not passed to them by the robotic objects. Even more surprising was that this effect occurred with robotic objects that have no humanoid features. The team is continuing to map negative and positive social effects of Robot-Robot-Human Interaction in order to better understand, and lead the way, in this emerging field.

The XR@IDC project uses augmented, virtual and mixed reality to simulate experiencesCredit: IDC Herzliya

Both works were recently published by top international conferences and will be exhibited in April at the Eretz Israel Museum, as part of the Tel Aviv Biennale of Crafts & Design, where milab's most recent work will be unveiled: a choreography with robotic curtains.

MSC program in Machine Learning and Data Science

As part of IDC Herzliya’s commitment to prioritizing innovative technologies, the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science offers an innovative and intensive M.Sc. program in Machine Learning & Data Science, aimed at providing a deep theoretical and practical understanding of machine learning, data analysis and data-driven technologies. The program, which is headed by Prof. Zohar Yakhini, addresses foundations and techniques, as well as application domains and use cases.

In recent years, data science methodologies have become the bonding language of all science domains and has become a central tool in academic and industrial R&D. Machine learning and data-driven methods have developed considerably, and now span many areas of modern life. Gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data using advanced algorithms and platforms are now part of the daily routine in many parts of academia and industry alike.

Clearly, these developments present many exciting challenges to data experts and engineers. These include developing algorithms and methods to process and analyze data and interpret the results. Challenges also span exploiting new cloud-based platforms, adequately deploying and taking advantage of software solutions, and handling information diversity at scale.

IDC’s MSc program endows the students with an in-depth understanding of machine learning and data science through a series of rigorous mandatory courses including statistics, machine learning, deep learning, and big data platforms. A wide variety of elective courses is offered in which the students are exposed to machine learning applications in different domains. The students gain experience in real-world data science work through course work and by doing a practical final project. The conducive learning environment at the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science provides a community, as well as team-up opportunities, for students, scientists, and researchers from the entire scientific spectrum. 

“The program at IDC Herzliya is offered through the Computer Science school, which allows the students to gain a rigorous understanding of algorithms and statistics. We also leverage existing platforms, such as the CONNECT affiliation program, to facilitate collaborations with partners in the high-tech industry,” says Dr. Leon Anavy, the program’s academic director. 

For more information about IDC Herzliya, click here