Integrated Research

Central Lab Facilities at the Cluster of Excellence CITEC support experiments and analyses conducted by research groups

The Central Lab Facilities are available to all researchers at the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC), offering research technology and expert advice. Just how productive the facilities are of such an efficient and centrally managed laboratory infrastructure can be seen, for one, in the many special awards its researchers have earned. For several weeks a year, the lab at the heart of the CITEC Building serves as the workspace for the Bielefeld RoboCup team. There, the team of students and faculty researchers prepare their service robots to compete in the world’s largest competition for intelligent robots. Their efforts have earned them great success: in 2016 and 2018 the team took first places in the RoboCup household service league.

Sven Wachsmuth heads the Central Lab Facilities at the Cluster of Excellence CITEC. Photo: CITEC/Bielefeld University The idea behind is the Central Labs is that the development of intelligent machines requires extremely complex experimental technology, and such technology often exceeds the resources of individual research groups. “At CITEC, we observe and analyze the interplay of functional components such as motion, perception, communication, or memory in humans and animals with the goal of bringing these together in technical prototypes. Each functional component is already extremely complex in its own right,” explains Professor Dr. Helge Ritter, Coordinator of the Cluster of Excellence CITEC. “The closer we get to making our goal of cognitive technical systems a reality, the more complex the experiments and analyses become. With their equipment and expertise, the Central Lab Facilities play a key role in dealing with this technical complexity.”

In service of this mission, the Central Lab Facilities maintain these large-scale research platforms in cooperation with several CITEC research groups. And the Central Lab Facilities also help to integrate the various contributions from each group’s specialized labs into the construction of comprehensive prototypes. This makes it possible not only to test cognitive technology in concrete situations, but it also brings it to life. “The Central Lab Facilities also ensure that our research prototypes are compatible with each other,” says Ritter. This includes ensuring that the software and hardware components in the prototypes can be reused in new systems. 

Central Lab Facilities as Service for CITEC Groups
Privatdozent [Senior Lecturer] Sven Wachsmuth heads the Central Lab Facilities. Six researchers belong to his team. “Our job is to support the research taking place in the labs of CITEC groups,” he explains. For this, his team runs a central laboratory environment for interaction technology as part of the Central Lab Facilities, where members of research groups can use experimental setups and research prototypes that were previously scattered across individual labs. These include not only robots but also systems for recording and measuring interaction: devices for recording motion, instruments for capturing eye movement, or setups that simulate virtual 3D worlds. Beyond this, Wachsmuth and his colleagues also manage large parts of the technical equipment in the laboratory apartment on the first floor of the CITEC Building, where new research innovations are adapted for everyday living.

To ensure that researchers at the Cluster of Excellence are able to construct their technical systems on the basis of tried and tested methods, the Central Lab Facilities provides infrastructural services for the maintenance and testing of necessary software. This is documented in an online catalogue called  the “Cognitive Interaction Toolkit,” which is made available to both CITEC and external researchers. In order to develop the software tools needed for this, a research group was founded specifically for this purpose, which is headed by Dr. Sebastian Wrede. The Central Lab Facilities also deal with the preservation and dissemination of research data. In addition to all of this, the Central Lab Facilities also pools knowledge from the individual research teams and serve as a intermediary for identifying expertise. “In this way, a number of research groups support us in providing our services,” says Wachsmuth.

Cooperation Beyond Disciplinary Boundaries
The Central Lab Facilities also make service robots such as Pepper available to CITEC researchers. Photo: CITEC/Friso Gentsch A total of some 40 specialized labs from various disciplines belong to the Cluster of Excellence, 25 of which are located in the CITEC Building on Bielefeld University’s North Campus. On the ground floor of the building alone, seven labs surround the Central Lab Facilities. In the Tactile Lab, robot hands are learning to grasp like human hands do. In the Biomechanics Lab, researchers are recording how people move when they do different types of sport. In the interactive MediaLab, researchers are working on virtual interactive avatars, where they are also using a 3-D scanner to record and digitalize people and objects. In the “Ambient Intelligence” Lab, information technology is being integrated into everyday objects. The Cognitronics Lab has a platform for conducting experiments with mini robots. The Research Institute for Cognition and Robotics (CoR-Lab) runs two labs in the CITEC Building: the Humanoid Lab, where research is being carried out on robots such as iCub, Pepper and Baxter, as well as the Transfer Lab, where researchers are working on technologies for industry. To ensure that all labs have hardware in good working order, chips and circuits can be tested at the electronics lab. A mechanical workshop is located on the ground floor. For Sven Wachsmuth, this spatial proximity is advantageous to everyone involved in collaborative research work in the day to day: “This means that we are well-informed about our colleagues’ research. And we are able to provide quick, straightforward support to one another with both advice and technical devices.”

Further information:
Website of the CITEC Central Lab Facilities: https://cit-ec.de/en/central-lab-facilities

Contact:
PD Dr.-Ing. Sven Wachsmuth, Bielefeld University
Cluster of Excellence CITEC
Telefon: +49 521 106 2937
E-mail: swachsmu@techfak.uni-bielefeld.de