Senior Lecturer

University of Birmingham

Dr Di Luca is Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham in the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics. He performs both fundamental and applied research to investigate how humans process multisensory stimuli, with an accent on understanding the temporal, dynamic, and interactive nature of perception. He uses psychophysical experiments and neuroimaging methods to capture how the brain employs multiple sources of sensory information and combines them with assumptions, predictions, and information obtained through active exploration.

Dr Di Luca employs signal processing and machine learning to discover patterns in the interaction and user’s movements that relate to perception. The leitmotiv of his research is to create computational models that constitute quantitative and testable theories about the underlying cognitive and neural processes. Such models can be used for simulations (i.e. to be implemented in robots), rendering (i.e. in haptic devices), and prediction about the user movement, responses, states (i.e. to optimise the generation of sensory cues in VR system by using perceptual metrics).

Interests

  • Human perception
  • Haptics
  • Virtual Reality
  • Computational modeling

Education

  • PhD in Cognitive Science, 2006

    Brown University (USA)

  • Laurea in Psicologia, 2000

    Universitá degli Studi di Trieste (Italy)

Experience

 
 
 
 
 

Senior lecturer

University of Birmingham

July 2018 – Present Birmingham, UK

Responsibilities include:

  • Researching
  • Mentoring: Postdocs, PhD, MSc, and BSc students in psychology and CS
  • Teaching MSc modules: Mind, Brain and Models; Research practica
  • Business Engagement Champion for Life and Environmental Science college
  • Chair of the school health and safety committee
 
 
 
 
 

Research Scientist

Facebook Reality Labs

July 2017 – September 2019 Redmond, WA
 
 
 
 
 

Visiting Scientist

PRO Unlimited for an assignment at Oculus

July 2015 – December 2016 Redmond, WA
 
 
 
 
 

Lecturer

University of Birmingham

August 2011 – July 2018 Birmingham, UK

Responsibilities included:

  • Researching
  • Mentoring: PhD, MSc, and BSc students in psychology
  • Teaching MSc modules: Mind, Brain and Models; CNCR foundations
  • Leading Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics MSc course
  • Business engagement, ethics reviews, website management
 
 
 
 
 

Scientist

Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics

August 2006 – July 2011 Tübingen

Responsibilities included:

  • Performing research on haptics, AR/VR, multisensory perception, temporal perception, computational modeling in Marc Ernst group and in Heinrich Bülthoff group
  • Mentoring PhD, MSc, and BSc students in psychology
  • Coordinating the work on European grants

Funding

ARME - Augmented Reality Music Ensamble

Grant, £1.3M, PI with Alan Wing, Maria Witek, Ryan Stables, Mark Elliot. In collaboration with: Nori Jacobi, Adrian Bradbury, PartPlay, SemantiAudio, the Coull Quartet
See certificate

Movement tracking and evaluation

Equipment donation, PI with Alan Wing

Lazy Susan: shipping stimuli for sensory research at a distance

Small grant, PI with Alan Wing

Seeing how you feel

UK/Ireland networking grant, £10k, co-I with Harriet Allen, Fiona Newell
See certificate

Taking the rough with the smooth: aging effects on tactile surface texture perception

Grant, £1.0M, co-PI with Alan Wing, Harriet Allen, Roberta Roberts. In collaboration with P&G
See certificate

Perception of package quality

SRA, co-PI with Alan Wing

Softness with pinch grasp

SRA, PI

User-based functional assessment of industrial gloves

SRA, co-PI with Alan Wing

Analysis of squeezing movements

SRA, co-PI with Alan Wing

Roughness perception during simulation of self-touch

SRA, PI

Temporal information in crossmodal stimuli (TICS)

Career integration award, €100k, PI
See certificate

Haptic perception of softness

Research grant, £15k, PI

The goal of Dr Di Luca’s work is to understand and model how the brain processes sensory stimuli allowing humans to perceive the word and produce successful behavior. In particular, he investigates the temporal properties of the mechanisms involved. For this, Dr Di Luca uses psychophysical methods, signal processing, Bayesian modeling, imaging, and a wide range of technological tools.

The information we acquire from the environment is continuously varying: we reach out, explore, and interact with objects that can move unpredictably. So we have multiple sensory signals available contemporarily, these signals are dynamic, and the information that they carry is a function of our actions. Despite such variations and complexity, our brain is capable of picking up, combining, and using information to create a percept and guide our behavior. It is not entirely clear what are the computations that allow us to effectively process such information and what are the properties of the neural mechanisms involved.

To shed light on these open issues, Dr Di Luca employs experimental stimuli that have some of the properties encountered during normal interaction with the environment, stimuli that vary over time, that change in response to our actions, or that contain redundant information about the world.


Find here a 60 second research pitch: YouTube



Multisensory perception

Our senses provide multiple signals that can be used for perception, but the information the signals provide is far from perfect: signals are not always sufficient to determine uniquely their environmental causes and are affected by noise due to transduction and neural processing.

Multisensory softness

Compliance is the amount of physical deformation of an object for the amount of force applied. Compliance perception (i.e., object softness) is a case of active sensing, because we need to interact with the object in order to collect sensory information.

Object shape and material

The perception of 3D shape is obtained through a complex interplay between local analysis and contextual information. For example, when we observe an object we integrate multiple sources of depth information, called cues.

Stimulus timing

Correct timing (whether it is measuring reaction time, presenting synchronous multisensory stimuli, or providing online feedback) is fundamental in several types of psychophysical research. The connections between the different components of digital computers introduce delays and asynchronies in the stimuli presented and in the recorded response time.

Temporal perception

Time is a critical feature of signals arriving from multiple sensory modalities. Simultaneity between multisensory stimuli, for example, can be an indication of which signals originate from a common source, and artificially introduced asynchronies can prevent integration or can dramatically modify perception of the event.

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