Leibniz Lecture: Photonic Technologies in Human-Machine-Interaction
• German Research Foundation (DFG)
• Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
• Fraunhofer IOF
On September 14th, 2016, the German Center for Research and Innovation (GCRI) New York, the German Research Foundation (DFG), Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, and Fraunhofer IOF hosted a Leibniz Lecture on photonic technologies in human-machine interaction. After the introduction by Katja Wiesbrock-Donovan, Head of the Culture and Science Section at the German Consulate, Prof. Dr. Walter Rosenthal, President of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, provided a brief overview of the University of Jena. Dr. Annette Doll-Sellen, Director of the DFG Office New York, provided background information on the Leibniz Prize and introduced the speaker, Prof. Dr. Andreas Tünnermann, a 2005 Leibniz Prize recipient. Prof. Dr. Tünnermann is Director of the Institute of Applied Physics and Precision Engineering at Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena and Director of the Helmholtz Institute Jena. Prof. Tünnermann began by discussing the challenges we face in the field of human-machine interaction, including issues that arise from autonomous driving and the application of machines in public health systems. He also played a short video that showed cars at an Audi plant in Ingolstadt being assembled by laser-welding robots. Due to advanced high strength steel and the use of machines in the assembly process, the overall safety of cars can be improved without an increase in weight or gas consumption. Today, 20% of Germany and Japan’s national GDP is based on production technology. In order to overcome challenges in this sector, new development and solutions for steady production in Europe and Japan are needed.
Prof. Tünnermann explained that Industry 4.0 has introduced the use of cyber-physical systems. They are meant to reintegrate workers and production lines while making use of the synergies between a worker’s creativity and flexibility combined with the machine’s strength. Through Industry 4.0, there has been a quantum leap in the production chains, digital technology and big data to tackle challenges, such as mass customization, on demand delivery, cost reduction, limited resources, and recycling. In the field of human-machine interaction there is a new vision for production, manufacturing, and engineering - the synergetic interaction between worker and machine - which may increase creativity, flexibility, and strength. There is also a need for intelligent systems, multimodal sensors, augmented reality, actuators and coordination.
Prof. Tünnermann discussed the expanding robotics market and mentioned that advanced human-machine interaction is the largest market in technology after the internet and smartphones. In order to properly communicate, we use gestures, facial expressions, and body language. However, communication with machines is still unnatural. There is no comparable method for us to communicate with machines as we do amongst humans, which also excludes the ability to communicate with several people at once. We need systems to interpret visual data for sufficient and secure interaction with machines. Prof. Tünnermann suggested an intersectoral and interdisciplinary approach. This would include researchers from different fields, for instance neuroscience, to think about the usability of devices. 3D recording is an important method to communicate between humans and machines in complex situations. Prof. Tünnermann’s methods include passive binocular triangulation, stereovision, active triangulation, and stereo-based pattern projection.
Towards the end of his speech, Prof. Tünnermann introduced small and low-cost solutions for new cameras that could be used in smartphones and machine technology. To achieve this and overcome new challenges, there is a need to think outside of the box. Prof Tünnermann and his team were inspired by nature for their new optical solutions. Former optical solutions were all based on the human eye, although there are twenty-seven eye systems in nature. He took the facet eye principle of insects into consideration. By adapting biological solutions to technology, the optical sensor is flat instead of curved. In order to develop a new sensor generation, one has to picture lens array from several micro-lenses. This “facet vision” has the potential to revolutionize the consumers market and human-machine interaction with low costs and a small size, a superior field of depth, and 3D information. Prof. Tünnermann strongly encouraged transdisciplinary research and collaboration, because different disciplines offer different solutions. He sees a future in cross-border research which is, although difficult to fund, important when facing future challenges. New communities need to be established where these systems are addressed.
The Q&A with Prof. Tünnermann delved deeper into the opportunities that arise through the new optical sensor systems. Prof. Tünnermann explained that the costs to produce a camera can be decreased by 30% compared to contemporary cameras and he highlighted the potential of the multi-aperture approach. In order to continue their research and production, Prof. Tünnermann and his team are currently seeking investors and software engineers. Another challenge is the question of responsibility and ethics with regard to autonomous machines and cars. Prof. Tünnermann said that complete autonomy is hardly possible. He concluded by briefly addressing the topic of scientific and economic exchange, namely with Japan, one of the global leaders in health care and the automobile industry and the U.S., a world leader in consumer electronics, defense, and security.