Dr. Thomas Hermann

Head of the Ambient Intelligence Group

Business Address:

Ambient Intelligence Group
CITEC – Center of Excellence in Cognitive Interaction Technology
Bielefeld University
P.O.-Box 10 01 31
33501 Bielefeld

office:3.217 (CITEC building)



Dr. rer. nat. Thomas Hermann studied physics (Dipl.-Phys, 2007) at Bielefeld University. From 1998 to 2001 he was member of the interdisciplinary DFG Graduate Programme "Task-oriented Communication". He initiated the research on Sonification & Auditory Display at Bielefeld University within the Neuroinformatics Group and received a Ph.D. in Computer Science in 2002 from Bielefeld University (thesis: Sonification for Exploratory Data Analysis). As research assistant (C1) within the Neuroinformatics Group he established the Interaction Lab (iLab) to investigate novel HCI methods. After research stays at the Bell Labs (NJ, USA, 2000) GIST (Glasgow University, UK, 2004) and McGill University (Montreal, 2008), he was promoted in 2008 to the tenured position of research group director of the Ambient Intelligence Group.

Thomas Hermann served from 2004–2013 as member of the Board of Directors of the International Community for Auditory Display (ICAD). From 2007–2011 he was German delegate and vice-chair in the EU COST Action IC0601 SID (Sonic Interaction Design) and Working Group Leader of the WG Sonification therein. He is initiator and co-founder (together with Dr. Andy Hunt) and (co-)organizer of the International Workshop series on Interactive Sonification (2004, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016) and guest editor of two IEEE Multimedia (2005, 2015) and a Springer Journal on Multimodal User Interfaces Special Issue in 2012 on Interactive Sonification. From 2006–2014 he was principal investigator in the SFB 673 project on “Alignment in AR-based Cooperation” and 2010–2013 the EU FP7 project MONARCA on the monitoring and treatment of bipolar disorder patients.  Since 2014 he coordinates (together with Britta Wrede and Sven Wachsmuth) the DFG funded large-scale project “The cognitive service-robotics apartment as ambient host” involving 12 CITEC research groups. He is principal investigator in the BMBF project KogniHome and leader of the project part on the ‘intelligent foyer’ therein. He is regularly requested as invited keynote speaker (e.g. DAFx 2013, ICT4AgeingWell 2015).   As key contribution for the Auditory Display community, he co-edited The Sonification Handbook (Logos publishing house, 2011) together with Andy Hunt and John Neuhoff.  Concerning public outreach, since 2011 he is – in his role as scientific advisor – co-responsible for the series Sonarisations, broadcasted regularly in Deutschlandfunk kultur, where sonification scientists & media artists jointly develop novel auditory data representations. Within CITEC, he serves as member of the Scientific board of directors, he is elected representative of  the mid-level faculty, co-founder and member of the CITEC ethics group and therein co-author of the CITEC ethics manifesto. He is furthermore spokesperson for the Bielefeld-Osaka branch of the DAAD Thematic Network IIS (Intelligent and Interactive Systems) and member of the steering group of the CITEC-Bethel cooperation.

Thomas Hermann currently supervises a group of 9 research members (PhD students and Postdocs) with topics ranging from Mixed-Reality over Ambient Information Systems and Wearable Computing to Smart Environments and Interactive Sonification. The latter include basic research as well as practical applications in interactive data mining, smart homes, or in sports. In his research he develops techniques for interactive multimodal data representation and exploratory analysis of high-dimensional data with a particular focus on sonification and human-computer interaction. His research topics furthermore include Tangible User Interfaces, Ambient Intelligence, Mixed Reality applications and Cognitive Interaction Technology.


Research Overview

Thomas Hermann’s research topics range from Ambient Information Systems through Mixed-Reality and Tangible User Interfaces to Smart Environments and Interactive Sonification, the latter including basic research as well as practical applications in interactive data mining, in smart homes, and in medicine and sports. His research aims at increasing the communicative capabilities of intelligent artefacts towards a smooth, flexible and multimodal yet calm interaction with human users, for instance by designing systems that respect the human's limited attention and can operate in the periphery.

My research fields are Sonification, Data Mining, and Human-Computer Interfaces. Sonification is the use of sound for the presentation of data. Data Mining is the field where I apply sonification techniques in order to exploit our highly-developed perceptual capabilities for discovering structures and hidden regularities in high-dimensional data.Human-Computer Interfaces play a central role in enabling the interaction with the data under analysis, and my interests focus on multimodal and highly interactive data displays for real-time manipulation of – and navigation in – complex data.

Particularly, I focus on the development of new techniques to render auditory presentations of high-dimensional data, which portray useful task-related information for data analysis by sound. The approach of Model-based sonification (MBS), developed in my Ph.D. thesis, provides a framework for generic connections between data spaces and acoustic processes and puts the focus on the interaction with a sonification system.
Human hands allow particularly complex and multi-dimensional control and their use for manipulating multimodal data renderings offers an enormous potential. My approach is to develop both computer-vision based interfaces to enable gestural control, and tangible computing interfaces to exploit the skills in physical interactions.
Understanding and improving the interface between information spaces (like for instance in data mining) and the human perceptual spaces demands a broad interdisciplinary view: here I rely on my strong background in music, physics, computer science, and my competences in interdisciplinary dialogue and research which I developed within the interdisciplinary graduate program Task-oriented Communication (between linguistics and computer science) and in international and interdisciplinary cooperations.

I am driven by the auspicious vision that scientific sonification, visualization, tactile displays and tangible or gestural interactions can be combined in novel synergistic ways to create multimodal experiences that provide more than the sum of isolated displays.