25. June 2024

Robotics Institute Germany Pools Top-Level Research Robotics Institute Germany Pools Top-Level Research

BMBF providing €20 million to fund robotics in Germany—University of Bonn heavily involved

Some of the country’s leading centers for robotics have joined forces and set up a consortium to develop the new Robotics Institute Germany (RIG), which is set to become its first port of call for the robotics industry. The consortium’s coordinator Professor Angela Schoellig from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and RIG speaker Professor Tamim Asfour from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) unveiled the concept for AI-based robotics at the AI-Based Robotics conference in Berlin entitled. Launching on July 1, 2024, the project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with €20 million over the next four years, and the University of Bonn is heavily involved. 

Robotics Institute Germany presented:
Robotics Institute Germany presented: - (from left) Prof. Angela Schoellig, Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger and Prof. Tamim Asfour. © Photo: BMBF
Download all images in original size The impression in connection with the service is free, while the image specified author is mentioned.

TUM is the lead institution for the RIG consortium, which counts ten universities and four non-university research organizations among its members. “I’m delighted that, through our joint efforts, we’ve managed to put together a robotics network with such strong partners—both universities and other institutions—for this groundbreaking concept for AI-based robotics,” says RIG coordinator Professor Angela Schoellig from TUM. The project’s strategic objectives include raising the international profile of German robotics, promoting talent in a targeted way and ensuring the transfer of research findings.

“With its exceptional scientific skills and expertise, the University of Bonn is a key partner in the Robotics Institute Germany alliance,” says Professor Sven Behnke, who is coordinating the Bonn-based subproject for the RIG. “We’ve a long tradition of conducting research into mobile robots that create their own models of their environment from sensor data, navigate autonomously, handle objects and interact with people.” The five robotics groups at the University of Bonn that are taking part in the RIG already work closely together in the Center for Robotics.

As part of the RIG, the University of Bonn is leading the “Benchmarking and Challenges” work package, which is about evaluating robotic systems. It will be devising benchmarks for environmental perception and enter competitions for humanoid soccer and domestic robots. With regard to science and technology of AI-based robotics, the researchers from the University of Bonn intend to set up a science cluster for semantic 3D environment modeling and an application cluster for agro-robotics. With regard to the infrastructure required for AI-based robotics an agro-robotics laboratory and an open-source humanoid soccer robot are to be created. To promote talent development, professors from the University of Bonn are to offer a new master’s degree program in Mobile Robotics from the 2025/26 winter semester onward and contribute to the RIG’s own doctoral program for training highly qualified experts.

The project will be starting from a position of strength, since robotics engineers in Germany are among the best in the world in AI-based robotics and have already made major contributions to its development. “Up until now, however, there hasn’t been a clear strategy in Germany for pooling the potential that’s out there and harnessing synergy effects within it in order to keep the country competitive over the long term and promote excellence and economic growth,” explains RIG speaker Professor Tamim Asfour from KIT. “We’re going to establish the RIG as an internationally recognized institute that’s the only one of its kind in the world, that drives forward top-level research, education and innovation in AI-based robotics and that tailors these various elements to what Germany needs.”

Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Federal Minister of Education and Research, adds: “Germany is already in a really good position in both AI research and robotics research, so now is just the right time for AI-based robotics. This is why we’re expanding our new Robotics Institute Germany and thus pooling all the very best minds out there. We’re creating a decentralized consortium made up of centers of top-level research and, in so doing, are laying the groundwork for integrating the massive potential of AI into robotic systems.”

Institutions involved:

Alongside TUM, the RIG project also involves Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the University of Bonn, TU Berlin, TU Darmstadt, the University of Bremen, the University of Stuttgart, RWTH Aachen University, TU Dresden, the University of Technology Nuremberg, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, three Fraunhofer Institutes—IPA, IOSB and IML—and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). Its associate members are the University of Augsburg, the University of Bayreuth, Bielefeld University, TU Braunschweig, Chemnitz University of Technology, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, the University of Freiburg, Universität Hamburg, Leibniz University Hannover, Heidelberg University, TU Ilmenau, the University of Kaiserslautern-Landau, the Universität zu Lübeck, the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the University of Tübingen, baiosphere, Cyber Valley GmbH, the Hessian Center for Artificial Intelligence and Deutsches Rettungsrobotik-Zentrum e.V.

Five University of Bonn working groups taking part

The BMBF will be providing the University of Bonn with over €1.4 million in total funding between now and 2028. Five computer science and engineering working groups at the University will be contributing to the RIG:

Autonomous Intelligent Systems (Professor Sven Behnke): the group’s cognitive robotics, computer vision and machine learning researchers have extensive experience in developing complex robot systems for a range of different uses. NimbRo—the University of Bonn’s robot competition team—has already won numerous international competitions and challenges (RoboCup Humanoid Soccer, RoboCup@Home, MBZIRC 2017, ANA Avatar XPRIZE).

Photogrammetry and Robotics (Professor Cyrill Stachniss): working at the crossover between robotics, photogrammetry and computer vision, this interdisciplinary team of engineers, geodesists and natural scientists are studying learning techniques to improve the performance of mobile robots and autonomous vehicles. The main applications are robots for use in agriculture as well as autonomous vehicles and service robots.

Humanoid Robots (Professor Maren Bennewitz): the researchers in her working group are studying innovative ways to integrate robots in human environments by combining methods for active perception, navigation, manipulation and human-robot interaction taken from both AI and robotics. Uses include personalized robot services, sustainable agriculture and preserving cultural heritage.

Agricultural Robotics (Professor Chris McCool): his team is conducting research in the fields of robotics and computer vision in order to give robots and autonomous systems the capabilities they need to work in challenging environments, including agriculture in particular. The methods employed include scalable learning-based approaches, cross-domain working and using extensive space- and time-related information for visual perception.

Geodesy (Professor Heiner Kuhlmann): researchers in this group are working to advance the field of land surveying using terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) and mobile mapping systems (MMSs) in particular. Their work with TLS is looking at improving sensors and algorithms, while the research being done using MMSs is focusing on the quality of derived point clouds, system calibration and integration into higher-level systems of coordinates.

Information on the Center for Robotics at the University of Bonn: https://robotik.uni-bonn.de

Domestic service robot
Domestic service robot - from the University of Bonn’s Team NimbRo making breakfast. © Photo: University of Bonn
A robot
A robot - from the Photogrammetry and Robotics team exploring catacombs autonomously. © Photo: University of Bonn
Professor Maren Bennewitz
Professor Maren Bennewitz - with humanoid robots. Her working group is studying innovative ways to integrate robots in human environments. © Photo: Volker Lannert/University of Bonn
The Agricultural Robotics group
The Agricultural Robotics group - is devising ways of enabling robots and autonomous systems to work in challenging environments. © Photo: Alireza Ahmadi
The Geodesy group
The Geodesy group - is employing terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) and mobile mapping systems (MMSs) in particular in its research. © Photo: University of Bonn

RIG coordinator
Prof. Angela Schoellig
Chair of Safety, Performance and Reliability for Learning Systems and Munich Institute of Robotics and Machine Intelligence
Technical University of Munich (TUM)
Email: angela.schoellig@tum.de

RIG speaker
Prof. Tamim Asfour
Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Email: tamim.asfour@kit.edu

RIG coordinator at the University of Bonn
Prof. Dr. Sven Behnke
Institute of Computer Science VI—Intelligent Systems and Robotics
Email: behnke@cs.uni-bonn.de

Wird geladen