Work Starts on the New Interactive Intelligent Systems Research Building at Bielefeld University

For the second time recently, work has started on a new building located on the North Campus of Bielefeld University. On Monday, the State Minister for Innovation, Science, and Research of North-Rhine Westphalia, Svenja Schulze, joined the Rector of Bielefeld University, Professor Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer; the Mayor of Bielefeld, Pit Clausen; and the local head of the Bau- und Liegenschaftsbetrieb NRW (BLB) contractors, Heinrich Micus, in unveiling the building sign to symbolically mark the start of construction work. This revealed a portrait of the first building to be handed over for research on the North Campus in the year to come. In her address, Minister Schulze remarked: "Here in Bielefeld, we are creating the framing conditions for future-oriented research. I am confident that this is money well invested.

All pulling together to unveil the construction site sign: Mayor Pit Clausen, Minister Svenja Schulze, Heinrich Micus (BLB Bielefeld), University Chancellor Hans-Jürgen Simm, and Rektor Professor Dr.-Ing Gerhard Sagerer.

One half of the roughly 30 million Euros needed for this building are coming from NRW state funds. The other half are from the Federal Government following last year's recognition of the outstanding work of the CITEC Centre of Excellence at Bielefeld University by the German Science Council. "This building expresses the international visibility of Bielefeld University in the field of interactive intelligent systems – one of the main specializations within our research profile. At the same time, the research lab is the first step towards creating the new Campus Bielefeld, and that will make the University and the town more attractive for academics and students from all over the world", explained Professor Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer, Rektor of Bielefeld University. "I wish to thank everybody who helped to make this building possible".

"In every sense, the new research lab will be a future-oriented building. It will stand out on the North Campus through its own strikingly independent architecture", said Heinrich Micus, adding, "moreover, it already shows us today how right and important the development of the North Campus will be for the further expansion of Bielefeld University. Together with the other projects on the campus, we are building one of the achievements of the century".

The four-storeyed research lab for Interactive Intelligent Systems has a total floor space of 14,829 square metres. That is about the size of two football pitches. The design concept is based on the theme of internal transparency combined with interactive and communicative work processes. One major architectural feature is the contrasting facades. Whereas the outside has a compact and closed facade of exposed concrete, the internal courtyard facades are completely transparent glass. The planned date for the completion of this remarkable building is August 2012.

Work on interactive intelligent systems has been a strong feature of Bielefeld University's research profile for several years. The aim is to develop technological cognition systems that interact with human beings on a cognitive level and serve as "understanding" helpers that are able to adapt their abilities to changing framing conditions according to need. The idea is to build machines that people can use easily and intuitively: ranging from intelligent everyday gadgets, across supportive environments and active media, right up to robots. Future technologies should adapt to human beings and not – as in the past – force human beings to adapt to the often awkward use of the corresponding equipment.

Mastering these challenges requires cooperation between the greatest variety of disciplines – with interdisciplinarity extending far beyond the engineering and natural science domain. Research on interactive intelligent systems brings together scientists from 32 research groups encompassing six disciplines (Informatics, Biology, Linguistics, Psychology, Sport Science, and Physics), and 17 of these groups will be housed in the research lab. Only a combination of findings from the humanities with those from engineering and the natural sciences can be expected to produce technological cognition systems oriented towards the model of natural cognition.