The Unique Ability to Adapt

Early-career researchers can now apply to the upcoming CITEC Summer School

Humans have one big advantage over machines: they are naturally able to flexibly adapt to changing circumstances. If humans want to touch an object, they use a suitable grasping motion. If they want to speak with someone hard of hearing, they speak more clearly and more slowly than they would with other people. The human ability to adapt, however, goes far beyond movement or interaction. Which mechanisms are behind adaptability, and how can the flexibility of humans, as well as other animals, be transferred to technical systems? The 5th CITEC Summer School will address these questions from 26 until 30 September in the CITEC Building on Bielefeld University’s North Campus. The event is targeted at early-career researchers in particular, who are invited to apply to the Summer School, which is now open for applications.

Whether it is recognizing patterns or language, robots and other machines can learn from humans how to flexibly adapt to situations. The 5th CITEC Summer School is dedicated to this topic of adaptability. Photo: CITEC/Bielefeld University. Four international experts at the CITEC Summer School will give keynote talks in the different thematic blocks within this year’s overarching topic of adaptability. One of the speakers is physiologist Professor Dr. Andrew B. Schwarz, from the University of Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, USA, who conducts basic research on prosthetics controlled by the brain. He will give his talk as part of the thematic block on “Adapative Motion.” This workshop is about investigating the natural movement of human and animals. To do this, systems will be used that, for instance, measure movement with infrared light that is reflected by reflectors (markers) affixed to the skin.

Computer scientist Professor Dr. Christian from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark researches artificial intelligence and artificial neural networks, among other topics. He will hold the lecture for the workshop “Deep Approaches to Relevance Learning.” This workshop is dedicated to the question of how machines evaluate the vast amount of sensory information recorded by devices like cameras, radars, or microphones. Depending on the situation, certain information is sometimes more important than other information. But how should machines “understand” these differences in relevance and meaning?

Linguist Professor Dr. Kerstin Fischer, from the University of Southern Denmark, researches how humans and robots can communicate with each other using both spoken and body language. She will lead the workshop “Multimodal Learning and Social Interaction,” which explores what signals such as facial expressions, gestures, or intonation, contribute to making interaction fluent and seamless, not only between humans, but also between humans and machines.

How can artificial sensors be connected with the human nervous system? Electrical and computer engineer Professor Dr. Ralph Etienne-Cummings from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, deals with this question in his research. He will hold the keynote lecture for the workshop “Embodiment and Neuromorphic Learning Systems,” where researchers will discuss, for example, how the human brain can be used as a model for computer design. To this point, the hu-man brain has been superior to computers when it comes to recognizing patterns.
Early-career researchers and students who would like to take part in the CITEC Summer School can apply online through 29 July. Young researchers in experimental and technical fields, including biology, psychology, linguistics, robotics, and computer science are invited to apply. Participants in the CITEC Summer School will have the opportunity to try out new technologies and methods, and will have the chance to meet and interact with leading researchers in these fields.



  • Tuesday to Friday, 27 to 30 September, all day
  • Public Lectures in English from Tuesday to Friday, 27 to 30 September, 9  to 11am

For More Information, Please Visit:
Overview of the CITEC Summer School:
Contact Person for Content-Related Questions:
Prof. Dr. Thomas Schack, Bielefeld University
Head of the Graduate School at the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC)
Telephone: +49 521 106-5127

Contact Person for Organizational Questions:
Claudia Muhl, Bielefeld University
Manager of the Graduate School at the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC)
Telephone: +49 521 106-6566