CITEC Congratulates Anja Philippsen for Successful Dissertation

Anja Philippsen (center) at the graduation ceremony, wearing a special cap from the “Applied Informatics” research group. Celebrating alongside Philippsen are her evaluators Prof. Dr-Ing. Britta Wrede and Dr. Felix Reinhart. On 28 February 2018, Anja Philippsen successfully completed her dissertation titled “Learning How to Speak: Goal Space Exploration for Articulatory Skill Acquisition.” She was member of the Applied Informatics group (led by Britta Wrede). Her dissertation was evaluated by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Britta Wrede (Applied Informatics, Bielefeld University), Dr. Felix Reinhart (Faculty of Technology, Bielefeld University), and Dr. Pierre-Yves Oudeyer (French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation).

For her doctoral project, Anja Philippsen developed a technical system that autonomously learns to produce vowels and syllables. Inspired by how children develop their ability to speak, the system tests the possibilities of its motor system by trying, in a targeted way, to generate sounds. For this, the system learns a low-dimensional representation of ambient language and explores it using “Goal Babbling.” Sounds in the ambient environment thus influence the learning process, similar to how the native language influences children’s learning.

This system can be used to investigate questions in linguistics and developmental psychology. For instance, Anja Philippsen was able to demonstrate in the model that clearer, more enunciated language – as is often used with children – improves the learner’s articulation.

Since December 2017, Anja Philippsen has been working as a researcher in Dr.-Ing. Yukie Nagai’s research group for the new project “Cognitive Mirroring” at the Center for Information and Neural Networks (CiNet) in Osaka, Japan. (

We offer our warmest congratulations to Anja Philippsen for her successful dissertation.