The Connected Community’s main objective is to train future professionals, such as students in therapy and special education, in the use of new technologies for people with special needs. These technologies include haptic, audio, and visual interfaces, robotics, virtual reality (VR), connected tools, and software. The CC focuses on special needs education and aims to establish a joint master's program in the long run. 

The CC has a strong interdisciplinary character and will actively collaborate with several stakeholders in society, such as schools, municipal authorities, ministries, and organizations dedicated to supporting people with physical limitations. One of the important aims of our CC will be to democratise access to skills and know-how in order to promote equality for people of different genders, ages, cultural backgrounds and physical abilities, with particular focus on the latter. 

Connected Community Activities


  • Students of different levels (BA, MA, PhD) will be involved in research activities, and encouraged to present their research findings, to share their work, and receive feedback.   
  • Research Methodology Trainings will be offered by postdocs and PhDs.  
  • Peer discussions, group projects, and research clubs will encourage collaboration among students and equip them with the necessary skills to conduct independent research.  
  • The exchange of best practices in teaching and curriculum development is encouraged. 
  • A MOOC Course on “New Technologies for Social inclusion” will be implemented until mid of 2024. 
  • Annual summer schools and several workshops per year will support the long-term aim: A joint Degree M.Sc. Program on “New Technologies for Social inclusion” (until the end of 2026). 

  • The CC contributes to the existing body of knowledge in the field by generating new findings. 
  • Co-authored articles by CC members will be published. 
  • Public lectures and exhibitions will be offered. 
  • A conference is planned, which is open for all researchers in the field and students to present their work. 
  • New educational materials and teaching methods will be developed. 
  • Partnerships/collaborations between researchers from multiple universities across the Connected Community will be fostered. 
  • The Connected Community PIs will apply for research and teaching grants (including student mobility) for increased interdisciplinary research and cross-pollination of ideas. 

How to get involved?

Lead: Prof. Ercan Altinsoy (  

Local Facilitator: Kerstin Le Merdy (  

Connected Community Members

Click on names below to see picture and short biography
Lead:   Prof. Ercan Altinsoy (TUD) |  Email :  

Ercan Altinsoy
Ercan Altinsoy - Ercan Altinsoy
Ercan Altinsoy received a graduate degree in mechanical engineering from the Technical University of Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey, and a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany, in 2005. After receiving his Ph.D. degree, he worked with HEAD Acoustics as a Consulting Engineer. Since 2006, he has been with TU Dresden, Dresden, Germany, where he is currently a Professor in acoustic and haptic engineering. His research interests include perception-based engineering, vibroacoustics, vehicle acoustics, virtual acoustics, virtual reality, haptic interfaces, haptic perception, product sound, and vibration desig

Partner: Prof. Sophie Sakka (CY) | Email:  

Sophie Sakka
Sophie Sakka - Sophie Sakka
Sophie Sakka is a full professor at the National Superior Institute for Inclusive Education (INSEI, France) since 2023. Her research profile is multidisciplinary, related to cybernetics between human and robotic systems, particularly applied to social identity and learning capacity. She had initial training in Solid Mechanics (UPMC, 1997), specialized in robotics (Ph.D., UPCM, 2002), specialized in humanoid robotics (post-doctorate, AIST-Tsukuba, Japan, 2003-05), specialized in biomechanics human (Associate Professor, University of Poitiers, 2005-16). She set up the real-time imitation of human movements by a humanoid robot during a guest researcher stay at IIT-Genova (Italy, 2006-07), and continued this work at IRCCyN (associate researcher, 2010 -16) and Centrale Nantes (Associate Professor, 2016-22). In 2014, she founded the non-for-profit organization "Robots!". One of its objectives was to carry out experiments in social robotics in society, to finance them, to perpetuate them, and above all to involve the general public in the reflection around the social change associated with the robotization of society. For her commitment and high-impact results with autistic and Alzheimer's audiences, she was elevated to the rank of Knight of the National Order of Merit in 2016. Her recent projects focus on the cognitive applications of social robotics applied to autism spectrum disorders and active learning processes of individuals. 

Partner: Prof. Heidi Ottevaere (VUB) |  

Heidi Ottevaere
Heidi Ottevaere - Heidi Ottevaere

Heidi Ottevaere is since 2009 a professor at the Faculty of Engineering of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). At present, she chairs the Applied Physics and Photonics Department which is responsible for the Photonics Education Curriculum at VUB. She is responsible for the Instrumentation and Metrology platform at the Photonics Innovation Center and for the research unit ‘biophotonics’ of the Brussels Photonics Team B-PHOT. Her current research interests include biophotonics, interferometry, holography, and imaging. At Faculty level, she chairs the Committee for International Relations. 

Partner Prof. Muriel Epstein (CY) | Email: 

Muriel Epstein
Muriel Epstein - Muriel Epstein

Muriel Epstein, an associate professor at CY Cergy Paris Université, specializes in digital environments and professional development for teachers. Her journey started as a math teacher, later delving into sociology to study student dropouts. Following her research, she founded an association promoting active learning to prevent dropouts, culminating in a successful history MOOC created by 200 dropout students.  

Her current focus centers on inclusive education, leveraging digital transformations to train teachers and prevent dropouts. Muriel’s research endeavors aim to explore how digital transformations can foster inclusive teaching practices and support educators in diverse learning environments. She is particularly passionate about utilizing technology to improve teaching methods and enhance educational opportunities for marginalized students.  

Alongside her academic pursuits, Muriel engages with EUTOPIA, connecting with a diverse network and fostering 

Partner Prof. Kerstin Person (GU) | Email:

Partner: Prof. Dr. Jolan Kegelaers (VUB) |  Email :  

Partner Dr. Chiao-I Tseng (GU) | Email: 

Chiao-I Tseng
Chiao-I Tseng - Chiao-I Tseng

Chiao-I Tseng, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She specializes in empirical multimodal communication research. Her work delves into narrative strategies and impact across various media such as film, graphic narratives, news videos and interactive narratives. 

She holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Bremen (2010), alongside degrees from universities in the UK and Taiwan. Her expertise lies in developing discourse methods for analyzing multimodal cohesion, narrative impact, and temporal-spatial aspects. 

 Chiao-I’s research is highly interdisciplinary. Her current collaborative research includes a project on children's understanding of space and time in audiovisula narratives, a cross-faculty project on misinformation detection in public and online news videos and an EUTOPIA collaboration on documentary film on immigrants in virtual reality.