AI and Cognitive Science

Research into artificial intelligence (AI) at TU Darmstadt is outstanding and internationally excellent. It clearly distinguishes itself from other locations in Germany and has the necessary interdisciplinarity to open up the potential of AI in a broad and optimal manner. It also does justice to the huge importance of AI from a social and economic perspective. AI research at TU Darmstadt is closely intertwined with cognitive science which is concentrated within the Centre for Cognitive Science.

Angela Merkel,
German Chancellor

A jewel in the field of artificial intelligence

Picture: Patrick Bal

Intelligent search and rescue robots from TU Darmstadt regularly win first prizes and world championship titles at international competitions. These mobile and humanoid systems can help to locate people buried in earthquake zones, provide the fire brigade with a clear picture of the interior of burning buildings that are at risk of collapsing during a major fire, or even locate and eliminate the cause of the fire.

Other teams headed by Professor Jan Peters are global leaders in the development of learning processes that directly influence how robots and machines are controlled and thus enable them to interact and learn with their environments in real time.

Professor Kristian Kersting and his team have developed machine learning methods together with partners from the agricultural sector in order to find ways to improve conditions for supplying the world with food.

The research group around Professor Iryna Gurevych has developed a systematic method for filtering concrete and well-founded pros and cons on any topic from the noise of the internet.

Headed by Professor Stefan Roth, his research group is developing adaptive algorithms for automatic images analysis. This means that they are able to reliably interpret long-term, complex traffic situations, for example at an intersection. This is an important prerequisite for autonomous driving in busy city centres and opens up many other new fields of application, such as the support of baggage checks at airports.

Hessian Centre for Artificial Intelligence with its main site at TU Darmstadt

The new Hessian Centre for Artificial Intelligence – funded by the State of Hesse and with its main site at TU Darmstadt – is supposed to provide excellent basic research, concrete practical relevance with answers to the important challenges of our time and the knowledge transfer to business and society.

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Their role is to act as spokespersons for the new Hessian Centre for Artificial Intelligence (AI Centre Hesse): Prof. Dr.-Ing. Mira Mezini and Prof. Dr. Kristian Kersting, both from the Department of Computer Science at TU Darmstadt, define the objectives and the special driving forces behind the centre.

Numerous AI professorships are currently being established across Germany. What is different about the AI Centre?

Kristian Kersting: We are not just establishing new professorships at the participating universities and it is also not just a centre. It is a centre with a future-oriented and internationally competitive research profile and a clear research agenda. Our key research objective is to establish the third wave of AI – novel AI systems that have human-like communication and thinking skills and which can identify new situations and independently adapt to them.

This requires a three-pronged approach based on AI algorithms, AI systems and synergy effects between natural and artificial intelligence. This visionary three-pronged approach is embedded into a high performance computing infrastructure that was specially designed for modern AI.

Mira Mezini: The centre will carry out research into the algorithmic foundations for novel artificial intelligence that is developed in harmony with findings on natural intelligence. In addition, our research will re-evaluate basic problems and methods in computer science – not only with the aim of seamlessly integrating and interactively designing machine learning, thought and “common sense” but also with the goal of automating these processes as far as possible.

This could enable software developers who are not AI experts to create robust, secure and efficient AI systems. The aim is, in other words, to democratise the field of AI.

Alongside cutting-edge research, what other objectives are being pursued at the AI Centre in Hesse?

Kersting: The centre will not only push forward cutting-edge research, but also promote the applications of AI. To do this, we aim to create an innovation ecosystem at the AI Centre in close cooperation with industry, non-university research facilities and social groups.

KI researchers and practitioners will be able to come together and carry out AI research , develop responsible and human-centred AI systems and transfer the results.

Mezini: This type of ecosystem will provide the ideal conditions for creating start-ups, allowing companies to benefit from AI research and identifying applications that push forward the research and promote young talents in the field of AI, as well as attracting investors from around the world.

Why is the main site for the AI Centre Hesse based at TU Darmstadt?

Mezini: TU Darmstadt already has internationally renowned expertise in the area of AI by now which covers a broad spectrum of fields – from AI systems through to computational cognitive sciences. However, we are not only strong in core AI. TU Darmstadt is also extremely well positioned in the area of interdisciplinary research to develop specific AI systems for other disciplines such as the material sciences or mechanical engineering.

In a workshop held across TU Darmstadt, we have already identified various different starting points for joint interdisciplinary AI research. In addition, we have established structures for transferring the research into practice, such as the Competence Centre for Medium-Sized Enterprises 4.0 (Mittelstand 4.0) or the Competence Centre for Work and Artificial Intelligence (kompAKI), which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Furthermore, the centre can benefit from the long-standing cooperation between philosophy and computer sciences, the Competence Centre for Responsible Digitalisation that is also based in Darmstadt and our strong research into cybersecurity and the National Research Center for Applied Cybersecurity ATHENE so that we can develop responsible artificial intelligence.