In addition to the mathematical and methodological foundations of motion studies, research at the Heidelberg Center for Motion Research will also include the connection between movement, the psyche, cognition and the body.
With the support of the Carl Zeiss Foundation, an interdisciplinary center for motion research took up its work at Heidelberg University on 1 February of this year. As part of the foundation’s programme for the advancement of infrastructure, the new research facility is receiving funding in the amount of 800,000 euros over a four-year period. Researchers from different fields, including computer scientists, mathematicians, physicists, sport scientists, psychologists, physiologists and geriatricians will be collaborating at the Heidelberg Center for Motion Research. The center also includes a laboratory for motion measurements in humans and in technical systems. Katja Mombaur, head of the Optimization in Robotics and Biomechanics research group at Heidelberg University, is the center’s coordinator.
Work at the Heidelberg Center for Motion Research will focus on what makes human motion so complex. "Movement is a multilayered hierarchical process that involves numerous mechanical and cognitive components. At a conscious level, we perceive our environment and then decide how we want to move our bodies, which is translated intuitively into coordinated motion processes," states Prof. Mombaur. According to the researcher, we still don’t fully understand this complexity. "In particular, the quantitative description of human motion remains a challenge." The new center therefore includes a motion laboratory equipped with various measurement and recording systems.
In addition to the mathematical and methodological foundations of motion studies, research at the Heidelberg Center for Motion Research will also include the connection between movement, the psyche, cognition and the body. Researchers will also be exploring special topics such as motion in the elderly, motion studies at the workplace and in sports, and dance therapy. "Our work aims to combine the qualitative, descriptive approaches of the humanities and behavioral sciences with the quantitative, model-based and experimental approaches of the natural sciences," explains Prof. Mombaur. "Combined motion research with this level of diversity in topics and methods will be unique to our center."
A major impulse for the center’s establishment came from the Marsilius Kolleg of Heidelberg University. Many of the researchers involved were fellows there and worked on a Marsilius project on the topic of embodiment. Prof. Mombaur also points out that external cooperation partners from business, culture and sport will be involved in the work of the Heidelberg Center for Motion Research in order to transfer the research results into society. In addition to research, the center’s activities will also include special courses for students, discussion groups for doctoral candidates, scientific workshops and conferences, an opening summer school and an international visiting scientists program. Various events are also being planned for the interested public, particularly for children.