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Institute Talks

Safe Learning Control for Gaussian Process Models

Talk
  • 25 February 2020 • 14:00 15:00
  • Jonas Umlauft
  • MPI-IS Stuttgart, Heisenbergstr. 3, seminar room 2P4

Machine learning allows automated systems to identify structures and physical laws based on measured data, which is particularly useful in areas where an analytic derivation of a model is too tedious or not possible. Research in reinforcement learning led to impressive results and superhuman performance in well-structured tasks and games. However, to this day, data-driven models are rarely employed in the control of safety critical systems, because the success of a controller, which is based on these models, cannot be guaranteed. Therefore, the research presented in this talk analyzes the closed-loop behavior of learning control laws by means of rigorous proofs. More specifically, we propose a control law based on Gaussian process (GP) models, which actively avoids uncertainties in the state space and favors trajectories along the training data, where the system is well-known. We show that this behavior is optimal as it maximizes the probability of asymptotic stability. Additionally, we consider an event-triggered online learning control law, which safely explores an initially unknown system. It only takes new training data whenever the uncertainty in the system becomes too large. As the control law only requires a locally precise model, this novel learning strategy has a high data efficiency and provides safety guarantees.

Organizers: Sebastian Trimpe

Learning to Model 3D Human Face Geometry

Talk
  • 20 March 2020 • 11:00 12:00
  • Victoria Fernández Abrevaya
  • N3.022 (Aquarium)

In this talk I will present an overview of our recent works that learn deep geometric models for the 3D face from large datasets of scans. Priors for the 3D face are crucial for many applications: to constrain ill posed problems such as 3D reconstruction from monocular input, for efficient generation and animation of 3D virtual avatars, or even in medical domains such as recognition of craniofacial disorders. Generative models of the face have been widely used for this task, as well as deep learning approaches that have recently emerged as a robust alternative. Barring a few exceptions, most of these data-driven approaches were built from either a relatively limited number of samples (in the case of linear models of the shape), or by synthetic data augmentation (for deep-learning based approaches), mainly due to the difficulty in obtaining large-scale and accurate 3D scans of the face. Yet, there is a substantial amount of 3D information that can be gathered when considering publicly available datasets that have been captured over the last decade. I will discuss here our works that tackle the challenges of building rich geometric models out of these large and varied datasets, with the goal of modeling the facial shape, expression (i.e. motion) or geometric details. Concretely, I will talk about (1) an efficient and fully automatic approach for registration of large datasets of 3D faces in motion; (2) deep learning methods for modeling the facial geometry that can disentangle the shape and expression aspects of the face; and (3) a multi-modal learning approach for capturing geometric details from images in-the-wild, by simultaneously encoding both facial surface normal and natural image information.

Organizers: Jinlong Yang

Electro-active Ionic Elastomers

Talk
  • 23 March 2020 • 11:00 12:00
  • Prof. Antal Jákli
  • 2P04

Motivated by the low voltage driven actuation of ionic Electroactive Polymers (iEAPs) [1] [2], recently we began investigating ionic elastomers. In this talk I will discuss the preparation, physical characterization and electric bending actuation properties of two novel ionic elastomers; ionic polymer electrolyte membranes (iPEM)[3], and ionic liquid crystal elastomers (iLCE).[4] Both materials can be actuated by low frequency AC or DC voltages of less than 1 V. The bending actuation properties of the iPEMs are outperforming most of the well-developed iEAPs, and the not optimized first iLCEs are already comparable to them. Ionic liquid crystal elastomers also exhibit superior features, such as the alignment dependent actuation, which offers the possibility of pre-programed actuation pattern at the level of cross-linking process. Additionally, multiple (thermal, optical and electric) actuations are also possible. I will also discuss issues with compliant electrodes and possible soft robotic applications. [1] Y. Bar-Cohen, Electroactive Polyer Actuators as Artficial Muscles: Reality, Potential and Challenges, SPIE Press, Bellingham, 2004. [2] O. Kim, S. J. Kim, M. J. Park, Chem. Commun. 2018, 54, 4895. [3] C. P. H. Rajapaksha, C. Feng, C. Piedrahita, J. Cao, V. Kaphle, B. Lüssem, T. Kyu, A. Jákli, Macromol. Rapid Commun. 2020, in print. [4] C. Feng, C. P. H. Rajapaksha, J. M. Cedillo, C. Piedrahita, J. Cao, V. Kaphle, B. Lussem, T. Kyu, A. I. Jákli, Macromol. Rapid Commun. 2019, 1900299.

Biomechanical models and functional anatomy of the horse body

Talk
  • 23 March 2020 • 12:00 12:45
  • Elin Herlund
  • N3.022 (Aquarium)

“There’s something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man”, Churchill allegedly said. The horse’s motion has captured the interest of humans throughout history. Understanding of the mechanics of horse motion has been sought in early work by Aristotle (300 BC), in pioneering photographic studies by Muybridge (1880) as well as in modern day scientific publications.

The horse (Equus callabus ferus) is a remarkable animal athlete with outstanding running capabilities. The efficiency of its locomotion is explained by specialised anatomical features, which limit the degrees of freedom of movement and reduce energy consumption. Theoretical mechanical models are quite well suited to describe the essence of equine gaits and provide us with simple measures for analysing gait asymmetry. Such measures are well needed, since agreement between veterinarians is moderate to poor when it comes to visual assessment of lameness.

The human visual system has indeed clear limitations in perception and interpretation of horse motion. This limits our abilities to understand the horse, not only to detect lameness and to predict performance, but also to interpret its non-verbal communication and to detect signs of illness or discomfort.

This talk will provide a brief overview of existing motion analysis techniques and models in equine biomechanics. We will discuss future possibilities to achieve more accessible, sensitive and complex ways of analysing the motion of the horse.

Uri Shalit - Causal Inference and Machine Learning: a Two-Way Street

IS Colloquium
  • 08 July 2019 • 11:15 a.m. 12:15 a.m.
  • Uri Shalit

Where does causal thinking meet machine learning? We will discuss several such cases. We first show how we use learning theory to guide us in building algorithms for inferring individual-level causal effects, and how we apply these ideas to create deep-learning causal-effect inference methods. We then show how ideas from causal inference can help us in two important machine learning tasks: learning robust classifiers and interpreting deep image recognition system. If time permits, we’ll discuss a recent application of machine learning for learning individualized treatments for patients in an acute hospital setting.

Organizers: Krikamol Muandet


  • Florent Di Meglio
  • MPI-IS Stuttgart, Heisenbergstr. 3, seminar room 2P4

Reducing the size and emissions of gas turbine engines used in the aeronautics industry forces manufacturers to explore new operating conditions. An undesirable phenomenon called thermo-acoustic instabilities may occur, caused by the coupling between combustion dynamics and the acoustics of the combustion chamber. To help predict, detect and suppress it, we explore various approaches. We will discuss the design of observers for infinite-dimensional systems, Fourier-based reduced-order modeling as well as a Machine-Learning approach based on high-fidelity simulation data.

Organizers: Sebastian Trimpe Mona Buisson-Fenet


  • Prof. Shu Yang
  • 2P04

Geometry is concerned with the properties of configurations of points, lines, and circles, while topology is concerned with space, dimension, and transformation. Geometry is also materials independent and scale invariant. By introducing holes and cuts in 2D sheets, we demonstrate dramatic shape change and super-conformability via expanding or collapsing of the hole arrays without deforming individual lattice units. When choosing the cuts and geometry correctly, we show folding into the third dimension, known as kirigami. The kirigami structures can be rendered pluripotent, that is changing into different 3D structures from the same 2D sheet. We explore their potential applications in energy efficient building facade, super-stretchable and shape conformable energy storage devices and medical devices, as well as bioinspired robotics. Programmable shape-shifting materials can take different physical forms to achieve multifunctionality in a dynamic and controllable manner. Through designs of geometric surface patterns, e.g. microchannels, we program the orientational elasticity in liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs), to direct folding of the 2D sheets into 3D shapes, which can be triggered by heat, light, and electric field. Taking this knowledge of guided inhomogeneous local deformations in LCEs, we then tackle the inverse problem – pre-programming geometry on a flat sheet to take an arbitrary desired 3D shape. Lastly, I will show the prospective of taking geometry to create smart fabrics and tendon-like filaments for soft robotic applications.


  • Adriane Boyd
  • PS-Aquarium

We develop a grammatical error correction system for German using a small gold corpus augmented with edits extracted from Wikipedia revision history. We extend the automatic error annotation tool ERRANT (Bryant et al., 2017) for German and use it to analyze both gold corrections and Wikipedia edits (Grundkiewicz and Junczys-Dowmunt, 2014) in order to select as additional training data Wikipedia edits containing grammatical corrections similar to those in the gold corpus. Using a neural machine translation approach (Chollampatt and Ng, 2018), we evaluate the contribution of Wikipedia edits and find that carefully selected Wikipedia edits increase performance by over 5%.

Organizers: Jean-Claude Passy


  • Dr Antonia Tzemanaki
  • PS-Aquarium

Over the past century, abdominal surgery has seen a rapid transition from open procedures to less invasive methods such as laparoscopy and robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery (R-A MIS), as they involve reduced blood loss, postoperative morbidity and length of hospital stay. Furthermore, R-A MIS has offered refined accuracy and more ergonomic instruments for surgeons, further minimising trauma to the patient. However, training surgeons in MIS procedures is becoming increasingly long and arduous, while commercially available robotic systems adopt a design similar to conventional laparoscopic instruments with limited novelty. Do these systems satisfy their users? What is the role and importance of haptics? Taking into account the input of end-users as well as examining the high intricacy and dexterity of the human hand can help to bridge the gap between R-A MIS and open surgery. By adopting designs inspired by the human hand, robotic tele-operated systems could become more accessible not only in the surgical domain but, beyond, in areas that benefit from user-centred design such as stroke rehabilitation, as well as in areas where safety issues prevent use of autonomous robots, such as assistive technologies and nuclear industry.

Organizers: Dimitrios Tzionas


  • Yasemin Vardar
  • 2P4 in Heisenbergstr. 3

Sign-Up! is a career-building program for female post-docs in the Max Planck Society. This program aims to prepare post-doctoral researchers for their future scientific careers by several interactive training sessions and networking activities. As a selected member of this program, I will summarize the workshops that I participated in this year. My talk will cover topics about success factors in scientific careers, career planning, professional communication and leadership, self-presentation, and research funding.

Organizers: Katherine J. Kuchenbecker


Anthropomorphism in Surgical Robotics and Wearable Technologies

IS Colloquium
  • 03 June 2019 • 11:00 12:00
  • Dr Antonia Tzemanaki
  • MPI-IS Stuttgart, Heisenbergstr. 3, Room 2P4

Over the past century, abdominal surgery has seen a rapid transition from open procedures to less invasive methods such as laparoscopy and robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery (R-A MIS), as they involve reduced blood loss, postoperative morbidity and length of hospital stay. Furthermore, R-A MIS has offered refined accuracy and more ergonomic instruments for surgeons, further minimising trauma to the patient. However, training surgeons in MIS procedures is becoming increasingly long and arduous, while commercially available robotic systems adopt a design similar to conventional laparoscopic instruments with limited novelty. Do these systems satisfy their users? What is the role and importance of haptics? Taking into account the input of end-users as well as examining the high intricacy and dexterity of the human hand can help to bridge the gap between R-A MIS and open surgery. By adopting designs inspired by the human hand, robotic tele-operated systems could become more accessible not only in the surgical domain but, beyond, in areas that benefit from user-centred design such as stroke rehabilitation, as well as in areas where safety issues prevent use of autonomous robots, such as assistive technologies and nuclear industry.

Organizers: Katherine J. Kuchenbecker


Human Factors Research in Minimally Invasive Surgery

IS Colloquium
  • 23 May 2019 • 11:00 12:00
  • Caroline G. L. Cao, Ph.D.
  • MPI-IS Stuttgart, Heisenbergstr. 3, Room 2P4

Health care is probably the last remaining unsafe critical system. A large proportion of reported medical errors occur in the hospital operating room (OR), a highly complex sociotechnical environment. As technology is being introduced into the OR faster than surgeons can learn to use them, surgical errors result from the unfamiliar instrumentation, increased motoric, perceptual and cognitive demands on the surgeons, as well as the lack of adequate training. Effective technology design for minimally invasive surgery requires an understanding of the system constraints of remote surgery, and the complex interaction between humans and technology in the OR. This talk will describe research activities in the Ergonomics in Remote Environments Laboratory at Wright State University, which address some of these human factors issues.

Organizers: Katherine J. Kuchenbecker


  • Jinlong Yang
  • PS Aquarium

In the past few years, significant progress has been made on shape modeling of human body, face, and hands. Yet clothing shape is currently not well presented. Modeling clothing using physics-based simulation can sometimes involve tedious manual work and heavy computation. Therefore, a data-driven learning approach has emerged in the community. In this talk, I will present a stream of work that targeted to learn the shape of clothed human from captured data. It involves 3D body estimation, clothing surface registration and clothing deformation modeling. I will conclude this talk by outlining the current challenges and some promising research directions in this field.

Organizers: Timo Bolkart


  • Dr. Urartu Şeker
  • 2P04

Programming cellular devices to deliver proteins or small molecules using synthetic genetic regulation can be employed in many areas such as biomedicine, living therapeutics, living materials and many others. A biological device composed of a cellular sensor coupled with a programmed protein delivery system can lead the formation of a synthetic system that can sense the environmental inputs, carry out calculations and create an output. Using this approach, we have built cellular devices those can sense environmental signals and creates an output in the form of protein secretion. In this talk I will mention about a self-actuated cellular protein delivery system which utilizes logic gate based, and state-machine based operations for sequential protein delivery. Also, I will mention about our recent studies to create synthetic genetic circuits those rely on a sense-response approach. These will include a cellular device for a whole cell biocatalyst and another device for nanomaterial templating.