Universität Bonn

Institute of Computer Science

23. February 2024

Cutting-edge research in the field of Robotics and AI at our institute Cutting-edge research in the field of Robotics and AI at our institute

NRW Minister President Wüst visits the Humanoid Robots Lab at the University of Bonn

NRW Minister President Wüst visits the Humanoid Robots Lab
NRW Minister President Wüst visits the Humanoid Robots Lab © Volker Lannert / Universität Bonn
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The Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hendrik Wüst, visited the Humanoid Robots Lab at the University of Bonn on February 22, 2024. The talks focused on current research projects in the field of robotics and the challenges associated with the use of robots in human environments. The Minister President was able to enter virtual reality with a robot and watch a three-armed robot harvesting peppers.

The fact that autonomous robots do not always do what humans expect is a major problem when using robots in human environments. Unlike in factories, robots in human environments have to cope with constantly changing environments. Especially when interacting with humans, it becomes clear that the behavior of robots must first be trained so that the machines perform actions that are predictable for the users.

NRW at the forefront of innovation

"Science fiction becomes reality at the University of Bonn," said Minister President Hendrik Wüst during the visit. "Artificial Intelligence is more than just a technology. It is a transformative opportunity that can help shape our daily lives and our future. The combination of robotics and Artificial Intelligence can enrich our society in many ways: it strengthens our economy, enables innovative solutions in healthcare and opens up new opportunities in education and research," said Wüst. "The Humanoid Robots Lab at the University of Bonn shows how we can experience these opportunities in our daily lives: Through everyday helpers and learning avatars that we can interact with, we experience a new form of support in our daily activities. North Rhine-Westphalia is the most densely populated university and science location in Europe, and our science is excellent. The research projects at the Humanoid Robots Lab help to ensure that our state remains at the forefront of innovation."

During his visit to the Humanoid Robots Lab at the University of Bonn, Minister President Wüst was able to see several innovative research projects at the interface of robotics and artificial intelligence. For example, a three-armed harvesting robot from the PhenoRob Cluster of Excellence harvested peppers from a plant in front of the Minister President. The challenge: peppers are often covered by leaves, so the AI first has to estimate their exact position and shape from the image data obtained and draw the right conclusions. Another project, which is being carried out in collaboration with the Lamarr Institute for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, is using virtual rooms to train household robots to adapt to different users in a personalized way. The aim is to increase trust and thus acceptance in the use of robots. Here, too, the Prime Minister was able to take action himself and assign a preferred route to a domestic robot in a virtual environment. The PRIVATAR research project was also part of the presentation - a project that is researching data-saving robots that enable sick children to be present in the classroom using a mobile avatar and even interact with the class community.

Improvements in the area of human-machine interaction

"Tasks that are easy for a human to perform are sometimes particularly complex for the robots' algorithms," explained Prof. Maren Bennewitz, Head of the Humanoid Robots Lab at the University of Bonn. "If robots are to take over more and more tasks in our households in the future, we must ensure that the behavior of the robots can be explained intuitively to the users. This is precisely where our diverse research projects come in, using Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to find very practical solutions to improve the interaction between humans and robots and thus contribute to greater acceptance." The fact that Bonn is a leader in this field is also shown by a recent ranking that places the University of Bonn in third place in Europe and second place in Germany for robot-related publications. "A great success for our research," says Bennewitz.

Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Michael Hoch, Rector of the University of Bonn, also emphasized the outstanding position of robotics at the University of Bonn: "With its excellent research, the University of Bonn occupies a leading position in robotics. Not least the Lamarr Institute for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence and our Phenorob Cluster of Excellence are outstanding examples of this. The founding of the Center for Robotics, which bundles the various research projects at our university, is the next step in pursuing innovative and transdisciplinary approaches in the future. But the great support from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has also contributed to this success," says Hoch.

Further Information

About the Humanoid Robots Lab
The Humanoid Robots Lab is at the forefront of robotics research. It explores innovative ways to integrate robots into human environments and contributes to important projects that combine AI and robotics for personalized robotic service, cultural heritage and sustainable agriculture. Prof. Bennewitz is a Principle Investigator of the PhenoRob Cluster of Excellence and with her Humanoid Robots Lab also part of the Lamarr Institute for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. In the context of Lamarr, the scientists at the Humanoid Robots Lab are developing basic technologies and processes in the field of embodied AI, for example for navigation control, which are used in various application contexts — including the PRIVATAR project.

About PhenoRob
PhenoRob is Germany's only Cluster of Excellence that combines agricultural science with engineering. It was founded in 2019 and researches new ways to revolutionize crop production. The aim is to produce crops supported by technology and AI while minimizing the negative impact on our ecosystems. The researchers come from the fields of robotics, geodesy, computer science, agricultural sciences, economics and ecology and are jointly researching new ways to make agricultural cultivation more sustainable with the help of state-of-the-art technologies. For example, robots and drones are being trained with the help of artificial intelligence so that they can not only phenotype plants and record their current requirements (water, fertilization, plant protection), but also supply them in a target-specific manner. Several market-ready products have already emerged from the Cluster of Excellence.

About the Lamarr Institute for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
The Lamarr Institute is shaping a new generation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that contributes to solving fundamental challenges in business and society in a powerful, sustainable, trustworthy and secure way. As one of Germany's central AI competence centers, the Lamarr Institute stands for value-based, internationally competitive and application-oriented cutting-edge research and is involved in science, education, and especially technology transfer on a regional, national and European level. The research institute is supported by the Technical University of Dortmund, the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn and the Fraunhofer Institutes for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems IAIS in Sankt Augustin and for Material Flow and Logistics IML in Dortmund. The Lamarr Institute is permanently funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia as part of the federal government's AI strategy.

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