Joelle Coutaz

joelle at
crowley-coutaz dot fr
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Short CV (.pdf)
Jo‘lle Coutaz

Honorary Professor, Universitˇ Grenoble Alpes (from Fall 2020)

Professor at Universitˇ Grenoble Alpes (1991 - 2020)
Founding Member of the IIHM research group at Laboratory of Informatics of Grenoble (LIG)

Knight of Legion of Honour(2013)
IFIP TC13 Pionneer Award(2013)
IFIP Fellow (first cohort - 2019)
ACM SICHI Academy (2007)
Honorary Dr. of Science, Glasgow University (2007)

Areas of Expertise  
Education and Responsibilities   
Research Interests  
Research Projects
A Bit of History

Areas of Expertise

Human Computer Interaction, Multimodal Interaction, User Interface Plasticity, End-User Programming/End-User Development, Digital Behaviour Change Intervention, Ambient Intelligence, Smart Home Technologies.


Education and Responsibilities

I have studied Computer Science at Universitˇ Grenoble Alpes (formerly Universitˇ Grenoble 1) where I obtained my doctorate in 1970 and Th¸se dÕEtat ¸s Sciences Mathˇmatiques in 1988 in which I set the foundations of software engineering for Human Computer Interaction (HCI). I am currently professor honorary, formerly full professor at Universitˇ Grenoble Alpes from 1973 to Oct. 2012, and professor emeritus until Sept. 2020. I am the founder in 1990, of the IIHM research group (Ingˇnierie de lÕInteraction Homme-Machine) at the LIG laboratory (Laboratory of Informatics of Grenoble), and served as group leader until 2010.

I have been involved in the ACM CHI conference as paper and panel chairs. I have served as vice chair of the IFIP Working Group 2.7(13.4) (User Interface Engineering). I have served as  a member of the editorial board of Interacting with Computer (Oxford Academic) and of the ACM Transactions On Computer Human Interaction (TOCHI). In France, I was the co-founder of two working groups on Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) and Multimodal interaction of the CNRS national programme. I have served as expert for ANR (Agence Nationale de Recherche) as well as for the European Commission. I have been involved in the ESPRIT-FP3 BRA/LTR project AMODEUS 1&2 (1989-1995) which was the first project in Europe to truly promote a multidisciplinary approach to HCI.

In 2008, I have coordinated a working group on Ambient Intelligence for the French Ministry of Research (MESR) to create a new trans-disciplinary field that brings together Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) and Social and Human Sciences (SHS) to address societal challenges in novel ways. From 2012 to 2020,  I co-directed the Amiqual4Home innovation platform in the field of Ambient Intelligence funded by the EquipEx program of the French "Programme d'Investissement d'Avenir" in collaboration with Inria centre at the University Grenoble Alpes.



In 2007, I received the honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University of Glasgow and I have been elected to the SIGCHI Academy for Ņleadership in the profession in Computer Human InteractionÓ. On March 8, 2013, I was awarded Knight of the Legion of Honour by the Republic of France for my pioneering contributions to Human-Computer Interaction. I was also awarded the title of "IFIP TC13 Pioneer" in 2013, then nominated "IFIP Fellow" in 2019 in recognition of "outstanding contributions to the educational, theoretical, technical, commercial aspects of analysis, design, construction, evaluation and use of interactive systems". I am deeply honored to be included in the HCI Pioneers website launched by Ben Shneiderman to draw attention to the trail blazers in HCI.


Research Interests

My early interests concerned the software foundations for the sound implementation of graphical and multimodal interactive systems. In 1987, I invented the Presentation-Abstraction-Control (PAC) software architecture model whose innovations have since been incorporated into modern forms of MVC (see wikipedia). This model was subsequently improved with colleagues as the Arch model then as the PAC-Amodeus model to support multimodal interaction.

In 1999, with the move to ubiquitous computing, I defined the concept of "User Interface Plasticity" as Ņthe capacity of user interfaces to adapt to the context of use while preserving usability.Ó In collaboration with colleagues, I developed the notion of "Context" of use. User Interface Plasticity has then been elaborated within the European CAMELEON project as a Unifying Reference Framework that operationalizes the development of plastic user interfaces. This framework has received high attention since its publication in 2003 and has served as a structure for the definition of UI description languages developed in the European UsiXML project.  

In 2007, I was invited to participate to the Dagsthul Seminar on End-user Software Engineering to work on the challenges faced in helping end-user programmers to create dependable software. As a follow-up of this work, I co-directed the Catrene AppsGate project that sought to empower ordinary people to configure and program smart home services. We have been living with Appsgate in our own home from Fall 2014 to Winter 2023 (due to the final breakdown of hardware !). AppsGate let us program many convenient functionalities such as using Philips Hue lights as eco-feedback on our energy consumption. From end-user programming facility, AppsGate turned to be used as a Digital Behavior Change Intervention (DBCI) system.

Since 2013, my research interest focuses on Digital Behavior Change Intervention, with early experiments on energy consumption in office buildings and domestic spaces. I currently participate to the ANR ePsyCHI project that aims to develop a set of semi-formal languages, called the ePsyCHI language, to formalize, articulate, and make operational key psychological theories related to behaviour change.


Research Projects

European Commission projects
FP3 BRA/LTR AMODEUS 1&2, Assaying Means of Design Expression for Users and Systems (1989-1995)
FP5-IST-FET-Disappearing Computer initiative GLOSS, GLObal Smart Spaces (2001-2003)
FP5-IST CAMELEON, Context Aware Modeling for Enabling & Leveraging Effective InteractiON (2001-2004)
FP5-IST FAME, Facilitating Agents Multicultural Exchange (2001-2005)
FP6-IST NoE SIMILAR, Creating human-machine interfaces SIMILAR to human-human communication (2003-2007)
ITEA4 Emode, Enabling Adaptive Multimodal Interfaces (2005 Š 2008)
ITEA4 UsiXML, User Interface in Multiple Contexts of Use (2009 Š 2013)
Catrene AppsGate, a new generation of set-top box for smart home applications including end-user programming for the home (2012-2015)

National projects
FUI Minalogic NOMAD, Concepts for mobile interaction for iPhones and tablets (2007-2011)
ANR CONTINUUM, CONtinuitˇ de Service en INformatique Ubiquitaire et Mobile (2009-2012)
EquipEx Amiqual4Home innovation platform (2012-2019)
ANR INVOLVED, E-consultant Persuasif pour la Gestion Eenergˇtique des B‰timents (2015-2019)
Idex Grenoble-Alpes Eco-SESA, Safe, Efficient, Sustainable and Accessible energy (2017-2020)
ANR ePsyCHI, Engineering Digital Behaviour Change Intervention: from Psychological theories to Computer-Human Interaction (2022-2026)

Significant international workshops

Dagstuhl seminars on Software architecture (1995), Ubiquitous Computing (2001), End-User Software Engineering (2007), Human activity recognition in smart environments (2012)
EU/NSF strategic research workshop ŅThe Disappearing ComputerÓ to identify key research challenges and opportunities in Information and Communication Technologies (Vienna, 2004)


A bit of history: How I switched from Operating Systems to HCI

It was at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) that, in 1982, I first used a mouse to interact with a computer. I returned to CMU in 1983 as a scientific visitor, and it is there that I developed the concept of the UI mediator published in IEEE Computer Sept. 1985 (ŅAbstractions for User Interface DesignÓ), as well as a constraint-based screen layout manager for the syntactic editor of the Gandalf project (one of the very first software development environments, led by Nico Haberman). In France, at the time, personal workstations did not exist, whereas CMU was equipped with Altos and Perqs. At CMU, I had the opportunity to chat with James Gosling who was developing the window manager for the Andrew system. I remember rich discussions about the pros and cons of overlapping VS tiled windows. I used my own money to buy one of the first Macs and to attend CHI 83 in Boston, just out of curiosity. CHI 83 changed my scientific orientation completely. I returned to France in December 84 with my Apple Macintosh (imagine: no disk drive and 128 Kbyte of main memory, but a very well-designed programmers toolkit!). It is then that I left behind my research in operating systems and networks (in Grenoble, I experimented the use of packet switching for interconnecting computers), and started working on the software aspects of HCI (not knowing yet that HCI would become a research area).

My belief: you need to do what you feel is right, and not systematically follow the comfortabe path paved by mainstream research areas.


Last update: February 2023