Cutting-edge Research in AI and Robotics: NRW Minister President Wüst Visits Lamarr PI Maren Bennewitz’s Humanoid Robots Lab

2024 02 22 News Wuest HRL - Lamarr Institute for Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister President Hendrik Wüst visited the Humanoid Robots Lab at the University of Bonn, led by Lamarr Principal Investigator (PI) Prof. Dr. Maren Bennewitz. The focus was on groundbreaking research projects that advance the integration of robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI), enriching and shaping daily life in various ways.

During his visit, Minister President Wüst emphasized North Rhine-Westphalia’s central role as a leading hub for innovations and praised the fascinating research projects in robotics and AI. He particularly commended the commitment of the Humanoid Robots Lab (HRL) at the University of Bonn, which demonstrates innovative and diverse ways in which AI and robotics can enhance our everyday lives.

Experiencing Robotics Research: From Virtual Realities to Autonomous Harvesting Robots

A highlight of the visit was the presentation of various research projects by the HRL research group, located at the intersection of robotics and AI. For instance, a three-armed harvesting robot, developed in collaboration with Lamarr PIs Sven Behnke, Chris McCool, and Cyrill Stachniss as part of the “PhenoRob” Excellence Cluster, harvested peppers from a plant in front of the Minister President. The challenge: peppers are often obscured by leaves, requiring the AI to estimate their precise position and shape from acquired image data and draw the correct conclusions.

Another project, conducted in collaboration with the Lamarr Institute for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, aims to train household robots using virtual spaces to personalize their interactions with different users. This initiative aims to increase trust and acceptance in robot usage. During the visit, Minister President Wüst actively participated by assigning a preferred route to a household robot in a virtual environment. Additionally, the PRIVATAR research project, which draws on foundational research from the Lamarr Institute, was presented. PRIVATAR focuses on data-efficient robots that enable sick children to be present in classrooms and interact with their classmates through a mobile avatar.

Improving Human-Machine Interaction through Fundamental Research in the Context of Lamarr

Prof. Dr. Maren Bennewitz, Head of the Humanoid Robots Lab, explained the significance of research for human-machine interaction. She emphasized the need for robots’ behavior to be intuitively understandable to users, especially when deployed in human environments. The lab’s research projects address this need by seeking solutions through Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to enhance interaction between humans and robots and increase acceptance. The outstanding position of the University of Bonn, a partner institution of Lamarr, in this field is evident from a recent ranking, placing it third in Europe and second in Germany for robot-related publications.


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NRW as a Driver of Innovation: Minister President Praises Research Progress

“Science fiction becomes reality at the University of Bonn,” said Minister President Hendrik Wüst during the visit. “Artificial Intelligence is more than just a technology. It is a transformative opportunity that can shape our daily lives and our future. The combination of robotics and Artificial Intelligence can enrich our society in various ways: it strengthens our economy, enables innovative solutions in healthcare, and opens up new possibilities in education and research,” Wüst added. “The Humanoid Robots Lab at the University of Bonn demonstrates how we can experience these opportunities in our daily lives: through everyday helpers and learning avatars, we experience a new form of support in our daily activities. North Rhine-Westphalia is the densest hub of universities and research institutions in Europe, and our science is excellent. The research projects at the Humanoid Robots Lab contribute to keeping our state at the forefront of innovation.”

About the Humanoid Robots Lab

The Humanoid Robots Lab is at the forefront of robotics research. Here, innovative ways to integrate robots into human environments are explored, contributing to important projects that combine AI and robotics for personalized robot services, cultural heritage, and sustainable agriculture. Prof. Bennewitz serves as Principal Investigator of the PhenoRob excellence cluster and her Humanoid Robots Lab is also part of the Lamarr Institute for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. In the context of Lamarr, the scientists at the Humanoid Robots Lab develop fundamental technologies and procedures in the field of Embodied AI, such as navigation control, which are used in various application contexts – including the PRIVATAR project.

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