February 19, 2016 / Lisa Pietrzyk

ERC Grant: Amplifying human senses by technology

SimTech Professor Albrecht Schmidt receives Consolidator Grant of the European Research Council (ERC). The project AMPLIFY will be funded by two million Euros.

"To amplify" also means to reinforce, to extend and to deepen. The computer scientist Albrecht Schmidt focuses on humans. In his project AMPLIFY, he wants the senses of humans to be extended by technical sensor systems. Prof. Schmidt was able to solicit one of the coveted Consolidator Grants from the European Research Council. The Grant promotes Schmidt and his group in the next five years with around two million Euros.

Human-Computer-Interaction

With AMPLIFY, new and advanced artificial human senses are being developed. So-called cognitive tools are evolved by means of digital technologies which are used naturally and intuitively. In addition, Schmidt pursues with his project the vision of creating artificial reflexes by using artificial perception and synthetic stimuli. In this way one could e.g. develop an artificial reflex for the lack of movement, which thus serves health.

The research in human-computer interaction is the key discipline to process intelligent systems. Above all, intuitive collaboration between humans and computers plays a crucial role. The field of perception and cognition in machine as well as for humans has always been very interesting for him, says Albrecht Schmidt. "With the AMPLIFY project, I can explore something that has a striking effect. I was aiming at this for quite a long time", says the computer scientist. The special feature of AMPLIFY is that he as a computer scientist can build a prototype and then test it out over a longer period and develop it further.

New glasses for a new class of seeing

Albrecht Schmidt plans interalia the development of special glasses that enhance the natural sense of sight of people - for example by representing other spectra than the human eye is able to. Schmidt has the vision of glasses that one can control by concentration and thoughts. Looking out of the window one will be able to zoom in on a detail which is one kilometer away. Such cognitive tools will give the people skills they did not possess without them. For example to see the world more clearly.

Working with technologies such as EMG, EEG and eye tracking human behavior is measured for the development of intuitive use. Electromyography (EMG) is an electrophysiological method with which the electrical muscle activity can be measured. The so-called electroencephalography (EEG) measures the electrical activity of the brain. During Eye Tracking the eye movements of a person are recorded. The expansion of sensory perception should at best not be perceived by the user. By this means a natural movement like the intuitive squinting of eyes in a specific viewing direction should lead to an automatic zoom of the glasses.

Ubiquitous technologies

"Computers are not better than humans. But the combination of human and computer is better than each alone", says Schmidt. He hopes to create a ubiquitous technology and to give the people thus skills that are still regarded as "supernatural".

In the field of human-computer interaction research, computer science meets other disciplines such as psychology. With the EU funding, the group will bring a neuroscientist on board, who designs the studies and interventions for the computer scientists at the Institute for Visualization and Interactive Systems.

Despite the developer spirit, Albrecht Schmidt will use the funding period especially for basic research in the field of brain-computer interface and expansion of sensory perception. In the long term he would like to, however, generate new interesting projects from the results of the basic research.

About Prof. Albrecht Schmidt

Prof. Schmidt is doing research for many years in the field of human-computer interaction. His research interests include context-aware mobile devices, implicit interaction, embedded interaction, new sensors for interaction and cognitive support of interactive technologies.

Prof. Albrecht Schmidt with eye tracker.
Prof. Albrecht Schmidt with eye tracker.
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