Politecnico di Milano is the largest Italian technical university, ranked as the 31st top university in the world in the field of engineering and technology. Politecnico di Milano trains engineers, architects and industrial designers. The University has always focused on the quality and innovation of its teaching and research, developing a fruitful relationship with business and productive world by means of experimental research and technological transfer. Research has always been linked to didactics and is a priority commitment which has allowed Politecnico di Milano to achieve high quality results at an international level as to join the university to the business world. Research activity moreover constitutes a parallel path to that formed by cooperation and alliances with the industrial system. Knowing the world in which you are going to work is a vital requirement for training students. By referring back to the needs of the productive, industrial world and public administration, research is facilitated in following new paths and dealing with the need for constant and rapid innovation. Within the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering (DEIB) of Politecnico di Milano, HOC-LAB is an interdisciplinary laboratory, that blends heterogeneous expertise, to design, develop and deploy advanced services, especially, though not exclusively, in fields that bridge IT engineering and the humanities, such as eLearning, eCulture, eTourism, etc. This includes the development of real (not just experimental) services and large-scale deployments, typically involving thousands of users, from Italy and abroad.
HOC-LAB has a long tradition of working with users with special needs:
In 2004, a methodology (IDM, Interactive Dialogue Model) for designing highly accessible websites for visually impaired users was developed. IDM was employed to develop a number of websites, especially in the cultural heritage domain (see for example www.munchundberlin.org, in cooperation with the Staatliche Museen of Berlin). IDM adopts an oral, dialogue-based approach to design.
In 2008, HOC-LAB, in cooperation with two laboratories at the University of Italian Switzerland and Cancerbackup (the leading UK provider of information for cancer patients), developed “OPERA”, a tool for genetic breast cancer risk assessment. The main goal of OPERA was to reduce the anxiety of those who do not have a significant family history of disease and, at the same time, to inform them of possible risks of developing breast cancer, encouraging them to join the UK National Screening Programme, by providing a “persuasive”, tailored and effective communication to the user.
OPERA is still available (and widely used), at McMillan Cancer support website (www.macmillan.org.uk).
From 2009 to 2012, HOC-LAB coordinated a national research project on learning and inclusion of children with special needs (Learning4All).
From 2012 to 2014, HOC-LAB was involved in M4ALL, a European project aiming to fully exploit the potential of motion-based playful learning experiences for children with disabilities (http://www.m4allproject.eu).
In the last 15 years HOC-LAB has taken part in more than 20 European funded projects, and more than 15 private-funded projects. In most cases HOC-LAB was in charge of scientific coordination. HOC-LAB involves an average of 3 faculty members and 12-15 people (researchers, Phd students and staff) approximately, with multidisciplinary background (computer science, humanities and design).