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Our goal is to understand the principles of Perception, Action and Learning in autonomous systems that successfully interact with complex environments and to use this understanding to design future systems. The Institute studies these principles in biological, computational, hybrid, and material systems ranging from nano to macro scales.We take a highly interdisciplinary approach that combines mathematics, computation, material science, and biology.

The MPI for Intelligent Systems has campuses in Stuttgart and Tübingen. Our Stuttgart campus has world-leading expertise in small-scale intelligent systems that leverage novel material science and biology. The Tübingen campus focuses on how intelligent systems process information to perceive, act and learn.

The Tübingen Campus for Intelligent Systems consists of the following departments:

Stefan Schaal

The Autonomous Motion Department has its focus on research in intelligent systems that can move, perceive, and learn from experiences. We are interested in understanding, how autonomous movement systems can bootstrap themselves into competent behavior by starting from a relatively simple set of algorithms and pre-structuring, and then learning from interacting with the environment. Using instructions from a teacher to get started can add useful prior information. Performing trial and error learning to improve movement skills and perceptual skills is another domain of our research. We are interested in investigating such perception-action-learning loops in biological systems and robotic systems, which can range in scale from nano systems (cells, nano-robots) to macro systems (humans, and humanoid robots).

Bernhard Schölkopf

The problems studied in the department can be subsumed under the heading of empirical inference. This term refers to inference performed on the basis of empirical data. The type of inference can vary, including for instance inductive learning (estimation of models such as functional dependencies that generalize to novel data sampled from the same underlying distribution), or the inference of causal structures from statistical data (leading to models that provide insight into the underlying mechanisms, and make predictions about the effect of interventions). Likewise, the type of empirical data can vary, ranging from sparse experimental measurements (e. g., microarray data) to visual patterns. Our department is conducting theoretical, algorithmic, and experimental studies to try and understand the problem of empirical inference.

Michael Black

How do we see? We seek mathematical and computational models that formalize the principles of perception. Can we make computers that see? We combine insights from neuroscience with statistical models, machine learning, and computer graphics to derive new computer vision algorithms that, one day, may enable computers to understand the visual world of surfaces, materials, light and movement

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Research Groups

Stefan Schaal

Prof. Dr. Karsten Borgwardt's group has moved to ETH Zurich:

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Scientific Facilities

In addition to the departments we are building shared central scientific facilities and workshops:

Scientific Computing

Scientific Computing Facility builds and maintains the computing and storage infrastructure for the research in the institute. It includes X86 cluster, GPU cluster, and storage servers. Apart from supporting the day-to-day computing needs of the researchers, we love to collaborate with them to develop scalable applications, and parallelize and/or optimize algorithms and applications. We also conduct independent research on scalable computing aspects of Intelligent Systems.

Jojumon Kavalan

Jojumon Kavalan

Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 5, OG

+49 7071 601 567


Jojumon Kavalan

Joan Piles

Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 5, OG

+49 7071 601 1750


Software Workshop

The Software Workshop is a unique central scientific facility that brings together scientists and software engineers to translate basic research into software systems that can be used internally and deployed. Our goal is to increase the impact of research in Intelligent Systems by deploying robust software systems that are widely used.

Raffi Enficiaud

Raffi Enficiaud

Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 5, OG

+49 7071 601 1756


Optics and Sensing Laboratory

The Optics and Sensing Laboratory supports research and development of new algorithms for image processing, enhancement and denoising, the integration of sensing systems of different types (stereo, video, range, etc.), new sensors and algorithms for computational photography and astronomy, and the development of real-time sensing systems for robotic platforms.

Raffi Enficiaud

Senya Polikovsky

Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 5, OG

+49 7071 601 1799


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Mechatronics Workshop

Heiko Ott

Heiko Ott

Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 15 (Ground floor: Autonomous Motion department)

+49 7071 601 1733


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Service Group - People (A-Z)

Jürgen Apfelbacher

Administration Manager

Jürgen Apfelbacher
Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 5
+49 7071 601 1553

Law and Staff Issues Budget Administration
Human Resources (temporarily)
Claudia Daefler

Public Relations

Claudia Daefler
Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 5
+49 7071 601 1767

Press Releases Media Issues Event Management
New Media

Andreas Holzmüller

Building Manager

Andreas Holzmüller
Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 5, UG
+49 7071 601 1754

Building & Construction Facility Manager
Sabrina Jung

Welcome Service & Human Resources

Sabrina Jung
Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 5, UG
+49 7071 601 1760

Human Resources Welcome Service

Telintor Ntouni

System Administrator

Telintor Ntouni
Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 5, OG
+49 7071 601 1758

IT Support
Andrea Odermatt

Conference Planning

Andrea Odermatt
Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 15 (Ground floor: AM Office)
+49 7071 601 1741

Conference Management and Planning

Heiko Ott

Mechatronics Workshop

Heiko Ott
Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 15 (Ground floor: AM department)
+49 7071 601 1733

Mechatronics Support (for all departments)
Julian Ruf

IT / Network Engineer

Julian Ruf
Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 5, OG
+49 7071 601 1715

Institute network infrastructure
Technical advisor & collaborator for the Campus network

Matthias Tröndle

Scientific Coordinator

Matthias Tröndle
Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 5
+49 7071 601 1789

Campus Matters Scientific Cooperation
Sponsoring Licensing (Patents)
Dr Richard Segar

EU Liaison Officer

Dr Richard Segar
Heisenbergstrasse 3 (D-70569, Suttgart)
+49 (0)711 689 3474

Jane Walters

Assistant to the Managing Director

Jane Walters
Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 5
+49 7071 601 1766

Support to the Managing Director
Institute issues Institute projects Organization

Jonathan Williams

Web Developer

Jonathan Williams
Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 5, OG
+49 7071 601 1728

Web Support, Design & Development
Webiste Contact (Institute & Campus)

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Welcome Service

Making Tübingen your home and not just your work place as quickly as possible is the aim of the Welcome Service. The Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems wants to welcome you by assisting you in settling in Tübingen, Germany. You are becoming not just part of an institute but of a community.

Here we try to answer general question on all topics that concern everyone who comes to Tübingen: directions, bus lines, dealing with authorities (visa, residence permit, etc.), house hunting, and becoming a PhD student.

Contact us at anytime about anything related to the Welcome Service and we will get back to you as soon as possible:

General Information

Please notice the different deadlines!! All of the procedures mentioned above have to be completed before your visa expires. Some of them have to be completed in order for you to get paid by the MPI IS.

Newcomer Timeline

How to become a PhD student

If you find a field to which you would like to contribute with your research, we encourage you to contact the department you wish to apply for.

Take initiative and check out the homepages of our three departments in Tübingen:

Apartment / Living Information

Tübingen suffers from a severe shortage of housing, especially affordable for students/PhDs.
Please give your housing situation some thought well before you arrive here.


Shared apartments and rooms and short term rentals; website available in English:

University accomodation for guests and employees, also available to MPI members if free; website available in English:

University’s dormitories, also available to MPI members if free; website available in English:

Even if you do not speak German, you might want to give German websites a try. There is a list of abbreviations commonly used in German real estate ads translated into English available - Please contact Sabrina Jung for this list!

Short term and limited term rentals; only available in German:

Local newspaper; only available in German; Placing an ad in the local newspaper also works well and is affordable (from about EUR 25):

Feel free to mention Max Planck – it might do the trick!

Real Estate Agents:

Real estate agents in Germany do not look for an apartment for you!

Their service consists of making their offers available to you and accompanying you when you visit an apartment. Be careful, you might be charged for these kinds of "services" !

Real estate broker that only charges you when you rent an apartment, available in English:

There is a list of short term accommodations available with me, if you feel that you need more time in Tübingen to look for an apartment.

The list of options given here is by no means complete. If you would like to add to the list, please let me know.

If you need help placing or understanding ads, please feel free to contact Sabrina Jung  

Registration Information

This is a rough overview of what you have to do once you arrive in Germany and in Tübingen:

1. Registration with the City of Tuebingen:

If you move to a German city, you have one week to register your new address with the city. In Tübingen, this is done in the "Bürgerbüro".

You can either go there yourself (the employees speak English and will assist you in filling in the form) or you can use the MP IS's service and fill in and sign the form with me and I will take the form and your passport to the registration office for you. If you choose to go by yourself, please remember to bring your passport!

You also need to reregister when you move within Tübingen and deregister when you leave Germany for good at the "Bürgerbüro".

Bürgerbüro (Resident registration office):

Universitätsstadt Tübingen
Bürgerbüro Stadtmitte
Schmiedtorstraße 4
72070 Tübingen
(0049) (0) 7071 204-2020
(0049) (0) 7071 204-2222

Opening hours:
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays: 7.30 – 13.00 hrs
Tuesdays, Thursdays 7.30 - 18 hrs

How to get there (From the MPI campus):

2. Applying for a Residence Permit:

There are two reasons for applying for a residence permit at the Foreigner’s Authorities (located within the "Bürgerbüro"):

  1. If you came to Germany without a visa and you are not a citizen of a fellow EU member state (this does not apply to you, if you are staying less than 3 months or you are from Romania or Bulgaria);
  2. If your visa expires before your contract with the MPI ends, you need to apply for a residence permit before your visa expires

It is important that you do not miss any deadline or expiration dates in this context!

Documents needed for applying:

  1. Confirmation of your work at the MP IS (e.g. work contract), including the heigth of your income
  2. Confirmation of health insurance
  3. Passport
  4. 1xbiometric passport picture
  5. "Old" (expiring) visa (if you have one)

You can either go there yourself (the employees speak English and will assist you in filling in the form) or you can use the MP IS’s service and fill in and sign the form with me. Since your fingerprints will be taken, I cannot go there for you but I will always be happy to accompany you.

If you have anymore questions or need help, please feel free to contact Sabrina Jung

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The Max-Planck-Society is one of the world's premier places to conduct visionary, high-risk, long term, and fundamental research. The Max-Planck-Institute for Intelligent System is always looking for new talents, from Ph.D. students to research scientists to junior professor levels.
What we care about is a strong commitment to top-notch academic research. We are interested in people who like to gain international experience, are strongly self-motivated, can integrate into a team, and who can drive creative and new ideas. Our MPI can offer unparalleled academic freedom, opportunity to work with the best equipment in the world, and to gain ample experience in international conferences and collaborations.

The MPI for Intelligent Systems is in the process of identifying candidates for a new Director. Our institute seeks to understand the principles of perception, action and learning in autonomous systems that successfully interact with complex environments and to use this understanding to design future systems. The institute studies these principles in biological, computational, hybrid, and material systems ranging from nano to macro scales. We take a highly interdisciplinary approach that combines mathematics, computation, material science, and biology.

Our institute is located in two sites, Stuttgart and Tübingen, that are about 30 minutes apart in a beautiful and vibrant area of southern Germany.

Nominees must have a record of innovative research at the highest international level, and will have demonstrated the potential to inspire and lead a substantial group of scientists. Their scientific interests should be consistent with the institute's goals but candidates in all areas of intelligent systems may be considered. Max Planck is unique in that Directors receive substantial funding that enables them to pursue a bold scientific agenda for decades without the need to raise funding. Exceptionally promising mid-career scientists, who could benefit from such funding, will be considered.

Written nominations will be treated in strictest confidence, and must include a short description of the nominee's background and most significant scientific accomplishments. Self-nominations are not considered.

Nominations should be sent to the Managing Director at mailto:gd@is.mpg.de. More information about the institute can be found here: http://www.is.mpg.de/en

The Max Planck Society encourages the nomination of female scientists for these positions as it seeks to increase the number of women in areas where they are under-represented.

The Max-Planck-Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen is looking for a student research assistant/HiWi (studentische/wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft) to develop knowhow in the development of highly parallel software. Your tasks will be the programming of several parallelization strategies and their performance analysis with different tools. Two experts in software development and parallel applications will mentor the candidate. A great level of freedom will be given to explore and familiarise with the performance analysis tools.

The Max-Planck-Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen is looking for several highly motivated student research assistants/HiWis (studentische/wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft) to strengthen its team. Your tasks will depend on your skills and your interests. The Software Workshop develops projects in many different areas and with different technologies, such as GPGPU/OpenCL programming, Django applications, image/video processing, or integration of state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms into C++ frameworks. An expert in software development will mentor the candidate.

The High-Field MR Center (MRC) at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics (Dr. Anke Henning, Prof. Klaus Scheffler) and the Autonomous Motion Department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (Prof. Dr. Stefan Schaal) in Tübingen / Germany, in collaboration with Dr. Dagmar Sternad, Northeastern University, Boston, US, invite applications for a PhD or postdoc position in methods development for brainstem and spinal cord structural and functional MRI at 3T and 9.4T ...

You will work with researchers across the Institute to translate research code into maintainable, deployable, and robust software systems. These systems may be used internally, made available as open-source projects to the research community, or even licensed for commercial use.

The software systems you develop will enable scientists of Intelligent Systems to build larger and more complex systems based on the research of the Institute and our collaborators around the world ...

The Max-Planck-Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen is looking for a student research assistant/HiWi (studentische/wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft) to assist with diverse tasks required in the administration of the new Optics and Sensing Laboratory and the design of new multi-sensor systems. Your tasks will range from updating Wiki-pages and editing documentation to testing the latest equipment and developing software for it. The candidate will work in both the office and the lab, and will be responsible for frequent correspondence (phone calls, emails, meetings, mail) with individuals from the Tübingen and Stuttgart MPI campuses.

You will help build a central scientific facility for Optics and Sensing. You will work closely with researchers from across the Institute's departments and research groups to investigate, develop, and implement technologies in the above fields. Half of your time will be devoted to research, involving other scientists and PhD students.

Department of New Materials and Biosystems / Perceiving Systems / Optics & Sensing Laboratory

The Max-Planck-Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen is looking for a master’s student to be part of a pioneering project that applies the cutting-edge technologies of computer vision and 3-D scanning/modelling to understanding the mechanics of the locust exoskeletons. You will develop new scanning hardware and software solutions that will aid in gathering information about the incredible natural ability of locusts to land on unpredictable surfaces without injury. You will work closely with the Department of New Materials and Biosystems. You will gain interdisciplinary knowledge in 3-D mathematical modelling and 3-D scanning hardware design, as well as programming skills.

Structured prediction refers to machine learning models that predict multiple interrelated and dependent quantities. Many applications in a wide range of domains can naturally be understood in this way. A wide variety of expressive and powerful models have been proposed, mostly tailored to specific applications. A shared common problem amongst many structured prediction models is that of intractable inference. This results in inefficient computation and in turn reduces the practical significance. We propose to study structured prediction models in the context of sequential decision making. Each decision is allowed to depend on a rich context that includes previous decisions as well as context-dependent observations. This approach puts emphasis on tractable inference and we believe that progress in this field will result to practical impact in multiple applications.

This PhD position is sponsored by Microsoft Research and is co-supervised by Peter Gehler, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and Sebastian Nowozin, Microsoft Research Cambridge.

There are currently no open positions.

ERC Starting Grant Project CONT-ACT
Control of contact interactions for robots acting in the world

Movement Generation and Control Group
Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (Tübingen)

Contact interaction during legged locomotion and manipulation creates extremely rich and high-dimensional, but structured sensory signals with complicated temporal patterns. The structure inherent to contact interaction can be exploited to learn sensory models of interaction that can be used 1) to automatically synthesize optimal controllers directly in sensor space and 2) to infer and predict the state of complex locomotion and manipulation tasks (i.e. robot+observable part of the world) ...

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The Max Planck Campus is located in the northern part of the city of Tübingen. It is directly accessible with public transport, however, there is also car parking free of charge on campus.

Tübingen Campus (Mailing Address)

Spemannstr. 41
72076 Tübingen

    +49 7071 601 551
    +49 7071 601 552

    +49 7071 601 1767
    +49 178 7313394


+49 7071 601 1800

+49 7071 601 1802


+49 7071 601 551

+49 7071 601 552


+49 7071 601 1741