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Institute Talks

Learning Control for Intelligent Physical Systems

Talk
  • 13 July 2018 • 14:15 14:45
  • Dr. Sebastian Trimpe
  • MPI-IS, Stuttgart, Lecture Hall 2 D5

Modern technology allows us to collect, process, and share more data than ever before. This data revolution opens up new ways to design control and learning algorithms, which will form the algorithmic foundation for future intelligent systems that shall act autonomously in the physical world. Starting from a discussion of the special challenges when combining machine learning and control, I will present some of our recent research in this exciting area. Using the example of the Apollo robot learning to balance a stick in its hand, I will explain how intelligent agents can learn new behavior from just a few experimental trails. I will also discuss the need for theoretical guarantees in learning-based control, and how we can obtain them by combining learning and control theory.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Ildikó Papp-Wiedmann Matthias Tröndle Claudia Daefler

Household Assistants: the Path from the Care-o-bot Vision to First Products

Talk
  • 13 July 2018 • 14:45 15:15
  • Dr. Martin Hägele
  • MPI-IS, Stuttgart, Lecture Hall 2 D5

In 1995 Fraunhofer IPA embarked on a mission towards designing a personal robot assistant for everyday tasks. In the following years Care-O-bot developed into a long-term experiment for exploring and demonstrating new robot technologies and future product visions. The recent fourth generation of the Care-O-bot, introduced in 2014 aimed at designing an integrated system which addressed a number of innovations such as modularity, “low-cost” by making use of new manufacturing processes, and advanced human-user interaction. Some 15 systems were built and the intellectual property (IP) generated by over 20 years of research was recently licensed to a start-up. The presentation will review the path from an experimental platform for building up expertise in various robotic disciplines to recent pilot applications based on the now commercial Care-O-bot hardware.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Ildikó Papp-Wiedmann Matthias Tröndle Claudia Daefler

The Critical Role of Atoms at Surfaces and Interfaces: Do we really have control? Can we?

Talk
  • 13 July 2018 • 15:45 16:15
  • Prof. Dr. Dawn Bonnell
  • MPI-IS, Stuttgart, Lecture Hall 2 D5

With the ubiquity of catalyzed reactions in manufacturing, the emergence of the device laden internet of things, and global challenges with respect to water and energy, it has never been more important to understand atomic interactions in the functional materials that can provide solutions in these spaces.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Ildikó Papp-Wiedmann Matthias Tröndle Claudia Daefler

Interactive Visualization – A Key Discipline for Big Data Analysis

Talk
  • 13 July 2018 • 15:00 15:30
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Ertl
  • MPI-IS, Stuttgart, Lecture Hall 2 D5

Big Data has become the general term relating to the benefits and threats which result from the huge amount of data collected in all parts of society. While data acquisition, storage and access are relevant technical aspects, the analysis of the collected data turns out to be at the core of the Big Data challenge. Automatic data mining and information retrieval techniques have made much progress but many application scenarios remain in which the human in the loop plays an essential role. Consequently, interactive visualization techniques have become a key discipline of Big Data analysis and the field is reaching out to many new application domains. This talk will give examples from current visualization research projects at the University of Stuttgart demonstrating the thematic breadth of application scenarios and the technical depth of the employed methods. We will cover advances in scientific visualization of fields and particles, visual analytics of document collections and movement patterns as well as cognitive aspects.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Ildikó Papp-Wiedmann Matthias Tröndle Claudia Daefler

Imitation of Human Motion Planning

Talk
  • 27 July 2018 • 12:00 12:45
  • Jim Mainprice
  • N3.022 (Aquarium)

Humans act upon their environment through motion, the ability to plan their movements is therefore an essential component of their autonomy. In recent decades, motion planning has been widely studied in robotics and computer graphics. Nevertheless robots still fail to achieve human reactivity and coordination. The need for more efficient motion planning algorithms has been present through out my own research on "human-aware" motion planning, which aims to take the surroundings humans explicitly into account. I believe imitation learning is the key to this particular problem as it allows to learn both, new motion skills and predictive models, two capabilities that are at the heart of "human-aware" robots while simultaneously holding the promise of faster and more reactive motion generation. In this talk I will present my work in this direction.

Learning dynamical systems using SMC

IS Colloquium
  • 28 May 2018 • 11:15 12:15
  • Thomas Schön
  • MPI-IS lecture hall (N0.002)

Abstract: Sequential Monte Carlo (SMC) methods (including the particle filters and smoothers) allows us to compute probabilistic representations of the unknown objects in models used to represent for example nonlinear dynamical systems. This talk has three connected parts: 1. A (hopefully pedagogical) introduction to probabilistic modelling of dynamical systems and an explanation of the SMC method. 2. In learning unknown parameters appearing in nonlinear state-space models using maximum likelihood it is natural to make use of SMC to compute unbiased estimates of the intractable likelihood. The challenge is that the resulting optimization problem is stochastic, which recently inspired us to construct a new solution to this problem. 3. A challenge with the above (and in fact with most use of SMC) is that it all quickly becomes very technical. This is indeed the key challenging in spreading the use of SMC methods to a wider group of users. At the same time there are many researchers who would benefit a lot from having access to these methods in their daily work and for those of us already working with them it is essential to reduce the amount of time spent on new problems. We believe that the solution to this can be provided by probabilistic programming. We are currently developing a new probabilistic programming language that we call Birch. A pre-release is available from birch-lang.org/ It allow users to use SMC methods without having to implement the algorithms on their own.

Organizers: Philipp Hennig


Making Haptics and its Design Accessible

IS Colloquium
  • 28 May 2018 • 11:00 12:00
  • Karon MacLean
  • MPI-IS Stuttgart, Heisenbergstr. 3, Room 2P4

Today’s advances in tactile sensing and wearable, IOT and context-aware computing are spurring new ideas about how to configure touch-centered interactions in terms of roles and utility, which in turn expose new technical and social design questions. But while haptic actuation, sensing and control are improving, incorporating them into a real-world design process is challenging and poses a major obstacle to adoption into everyday technology. Some classes of haptic devices, e.g., grounded force feedback, remain expensive and limited in range. I’ll describe some recent highlights of an ongoing effort to understand how to support haptic designers and end-users. These include a wealth of online experimental design tools, and DIY open sourced hardware and accessible means of creating, for example, expressive physical robot motions and evolve physically sensed expressive tactile languages. Elsewhere, we are establishing the value of haptic force feedback in embodied learning environments, to help kids understand physics and math concepts. This has inspired the invention of a low-cost, handheld and large motion force feedback device that can be used in online environments or collaborative scenarios, and could be suitable for K-12 school contexts; this is ongoing research with innovative education and technological elements. All our work is available online, where possible as web tools, and we plan to push our research into a broader openhaptics effort.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker


Digital Humans At Disney Research

IS Colloquium
  • 25 May 2018 • 11:00 12:00
  • Thabo Beeler
  • MPI-IS lecture hall (N0.002)

Disney Research has been actively pushing the state-of-the-art in digitizing humans over the past decade, impacting both academia and industry. In this talk I will give an overview of a selected few projects in this area, from research into production. I will be talking about photogrammetric shape acquisition and dense performance capture for faces, eye and teeth scanning and parameterization, as well as physically based capture and modelling for hair and volumetric tissues.

Organizers: Timo Bolkart


  • Emily BJ Coffey
  • MPI IS Lecture hall (N0.002)

In this talk I will describe the main types of research questions and neuroimaging tools used in my work in human cognitive neuroscience (with foci in audition and sleep), some of the existing approaches used to analyze our data, and their limitations. I will then discuss the main practical obstacles to applying machine learning methods in our field. Several of my ongoing and planned projects include research questions that could be addressed and perhaps considerably extended using machine learning approaches; I will describe some specific datasets and problems, with the goal of exploring ideas and potentially opportunities for collaboration.

Organizers: Mara Cascianelli


  • Dr. Islam S. M. Khali
  • Stuttgart 2P4

Mechanical removal of blood clots is a promising approach towards the treatment of vascular diseases caused by the pathological clot formation in the circulatory system. These clots can form and travel to deep seated regions in the circulatory system, and result in significant problems as blood flow past the clot is obstructed. A microscopi-cally small helical microrobot offers great promise in the minimally-invasive removal of these clots. These helical microrobots are powered and controlled remotely using externally-applied magnetic fields for motion in two- and three-dimensional spaces. This talk will describe the removal of blood clots in vitro using a helical robot under ultrasound guidance. The talk will briefly introduce the interactions between the helical microrobot and the fibrin network of the blood clots during its removal. It will also introduce the challenges unique to medical imaging at micro-scale, followed by the concepts and theory of the closed-loop motion control using ultrasound feedback. It will then cover the latest experimental results for helical and flagellated microrobots and their biomedical and nanotechnology applications.

Organizers: Metin Sitti


  • Dr. Yiğit Mengüç
  • Room 3P02 - Stuttgart

Incredible biological capabilities have emerged through evolution. Of special note is the material intelligence that defines the bodies of living things, blurring the line between brain and body. Material robotics research takes the approach of imbuing power, control, sensing, and actuation into all aspects of a (primarily soft) robot body. In this talk, the research topics of material robotics currently underway in the mLab at Oregon State University will be presented. Soft active materials designed and researched in the mLab include liquid metal, biodegradable elastomers, and electroactive fluids. Bioinspired mechanisms include octopus-inspired soft muscles, gecko-inspired adhesives, and snake-like locomotors. Such capabilities, however, introduce new fundamental challenge in making materially-enabled robots. To address these limitation, the mLab is also innovating in techniques to rapidly and scalably manufacture soft materials. Though significant challenges remain to be solved, the development of such soft and materially-enabled components promises to bring robots more and more into our daily lives.

Organizers: Metin Sitti


  • JP Lewis
  • PS Aquarium, 3rd floor, north, MPI-IS

The definition of art has been debated for more than 1000 years, and continues to be a puzzle. While scientific investigations offer hope of resolving this puzzle, machine learning classifiers that discriminate art from non-art images generally do not provide an explicit definition, and brain imaging and psychological theories are at present too coarse to provide a formal characterization. In this work, rather than approaching the problem using a machine learning approach trained on existing artworks, we hypothesize that art can be defined in terms of preexisting properties of the visual cortex. Specifically, we propose that a broad subset of visual art can be defined as patterns that are exciting to a visual brain. Resting on the finding that artificial neural networks trained on visual tasks can provide predictive models of processing in the visual cortex, our definition is operationalized by using a trained deep net as a surrogate “visual brain”, where “exciting” is defined as the activation energy of particular layers of this net. We find that this definition easily discriminates a variety of art from non-art, and further provides a ranking of art genres that is consistent with our subjective notion of ‘visually exciting’. By applying a deep net visualization technique, we can also validate the definition by generating example images that would be classified as art. The images synthesized under our definition resemble visually exciting art such as Op Art and other human- created artistic patterns.

Organizers: Michael Black


Automatic Understanding of the Visual World

Talk
  • 26 April 2018 • 11:00 12:00
  • Dr. Cordelia Schmid
  • N3.022

One of the central problems of artificial intelligence is machine perception, i.e., the ability to understand the visual world based on input from sensors such as cameras. In this talk, I will present recent progress with respect to data generation using weak annotations, motion information and synthetic data. I will also discuss our recent results for action recognition, where human tubes and tubelets have shown to be successful. Our tubelets moves away from state-of-the-art frame based approaches and improve classification and localization by relying on joint information from several frames. I also show how to extend this type of method to weakly supervised learning of actions, which allows us to scale to large amounts of data with sparse manual annotation. Furthermore, I discuss several recent extensions, including 3D pose estimation.

Organizers: Ahmed Osman


  • Preeya Khanna
  • Heisenbergstr. 3, Room 2P4

Actions constitute the way we interact with the world, making motor disabilities such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke devastating. The neurological correlates of the injured brain are challenging to study and correct given the adaptation, redundancy, and distributed nature of our motor system. However, recent studies have used increasingly sophisticated technology to sample from this distributed system, improving our understanding of neural patterns that support movement in healthy brains, or compromise movement in injured brains. One approach to translating these findings to into therapies to restore healthy brain patterns is with closed-loop brain-machine interfaces (BMIs). While closed-loop BMIs have been discussed primarily as assistive technologies the underlying techniques may also be useful for rehabilitation.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker


Consistency and minimax rates of random forests

Talk
  • 18 April 2018 • 13:30 14:45
  • Erwan Scornet
  • Tübingen, Main seminar room (N0.002)

The recent and ongoing digital world expansion now allows anyone to have access to a tremendous amount of information. However collecting data is not an end in itself and thus techniques must be designed to gain in-depth knowledge from these large data bases.

Organizers: Mara Cascianelli