Robotics Research at the Highest International Level

NRW state premier Wüst visiting the Humanoid Robots Lab at the University of Bon
NRW state premier Wüst visiting the Humanoid Robots Lab at the University of Bonn. - Together with Rector Hoch, he watches a harvesting robot at work. © Lannert/Uni Bonn

NRW state premier Wüst visits the Humanoid Robots Lab at the University of Bonn

The state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hendrik Wüst, visited the Humanoid Robots Lab at the University of Bonn on Thursday afternoon. Talks centered on current research projects in the field of robotics and the challenges associated with the use of robots in human environments. The state premier 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 deploying them in human environments. Unlike their counterparts in factories, robots deployed in human environments are faced with constantly changing situations. Interaction with humans requires prior training to ensure that the actions performed by the machines remain predictable for their users.

NRW at the forefront of innovation

"The University of Bonn is transforming science fiction into reality," said state premier Hendrik Wüst during his visit. "Artificial intelligence is more than just a technology, it is a transformative opportunity that can help form our daily lives and shape our future. The combination of robotics with artificial intelligence has the potential to enrich our society in many ways: it will strengthen our economy, facilitate innovative healthcare solutions and open 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, benefiting from support in our daily routines from robot assistants and learning and interaction-capable avatars. North Rhine-Westphalia is the most densely populated university and science region in Europe, and our research is excellent. The projects conducted at the Humanoid Robots Lab help maintain the position of our state at the forefront of innovation."


During his visit to the Humanoid Robots Lab at the University of Bonn, state premier Wüst was able to inspect several innovative research projects conducted at the interface between robotics and artificial intelligence. One of the projects involves a three-armed harvesting robot developed by the PhenoRob Cluster of Excellence to harvest peppers. The team took the opportunity to demonstrate the response of their technology to a challenge. As peppers are often covered by leaves, AI first has to generate image data from the plant, from which to estimate the exact position and shape of the fruit in order to decide on the best approach to performing the harvest. Another project, conducted in collaboration with the Lamarr Institute for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, uses virtual rooms to train domestic robots to adapt to different users in a personalized fashion. The project aims to increase the level of trust in robots and thus their acceptance. Here, too, the state premier got involved. Working in a virtual environment, he assigned a robot a route in a domestic context. The presentation also included the PRIVATAR research project, within which research is conducted into privacy-enhancing robots that enable sick children to use a mobile avatar to be present in the classroom and even interact with the class community.

Improvements in the area of human-machine interaction

"Tasks that a human finds easy to perform often present a complex challenge to a robot algorithm," explained Professor Maren Bennewitz, Head of the Humanoid Robots Lab at the University of Bonn. "If robots are to take on a greater share of domestic tasks, we need to ensure that their behavior can be explained intuitively to users. This is precisely where our wide range of research projects comes in. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, we seek to develop highly practical solutions to improve the interaction between humans and robots, thereby making a contribution to their increased acceptance." Bonn’s leading position in this area 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. "This is a great success for our research" according to Professor Bennewitz.

Professor Michael Hoch, Rector of the University of Bonn, underlined the leading 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 our cutting-edge expertise in this area. The establishment of the Center for Robotics, which brings together the various research projects conducted at our university, is the next step in pursuing innovative and transdisciplinary approaches in this area. The considerable support given by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has also contributed to this success," said Hoch.

About the Humanoid Robots Lab
The Humanoid Robots Lab is at the forefront of robotics research. Exploring innovative approaches to the integration of robots in human environments, it contributes to important projects that combine AI and robotics for personalized robotic services, cultural heritage and sustainable agriculture. Professor Bennewitz is Principal Investigator of the PhenoRob Cluster of Excellence. Together with her Humanoid Robots Lab, she is also part of the Lamarr Institute for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. In the context of Lamarr, the researchers at the Humanoid Robots Lab are developing cutting-edge technologies and processes in the field of embodied AI, for example for navigation control, which are deployed in a wide range of applications, including the PRIVATAR project.
https://www.hrl.uni-bonn.de/

About PhenoRob

PhenoRob is Germany’s only Cluster of Excellence that combines the agricultural sciences with engineering. Established in 2019, it conducts research into new approaches that promise to revolutionize crop cultivation. PhenoRob works to combine technology and AI to support crop production while minimizing the negative impact on ecosystems. Drawn from a wide range of fields-robotics, geodesy, computer science, agricultural sciences, economics and ecology-its researchers are currently working on the development of approaches that apply cutting-edge technologies in order to make agricultural cultivation more sustainable. One example of its work is a project conducting research into the use of AI to train robots and drones to phenotype plants and not only to determine their current needs (water, fertilizer, pesticide) but to act to satisfy these needs in a targeted manner. The research conducted at the Cluster of Excellence has already led to the development of several market-ready products.
https://www.phenorob.de/index.html

About the Lamarr Institute for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
The Lamarr institute is shaping a new generation of artificial intelligence that will make a powerful, sustainable, trustworthy and safe contribution to efforts to respond to central economic and societal challenges. As one of Germany’s key centers of expertise in AI, the Lamarr Institute conducts value-based, internationally competitive and practical top-level research and is a key actor in research, education and technology transfer at the regional, national and European levels. The institute is supported by the TU Dortmund University, the University of 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) as part of the federal government’s AI strategy and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
www.lamarr-institute.org