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Current Projects


BrainLinks-BrainTools is a Cluster of Excellence at the University of Freiburg funded within the framework of the German Excellence Initiative. It brings together members of the Faculties of Engineering, Biology and Medicine, as well as the University Medical Center and the Bernstein Center Freiburg. The scientific goal of BrainLinks-BrainTools is to reach a new level in the interaction between technical instruments and the brain, allowing them to truly communicate with each other. This requires the development of flexible yet stable, and adaptive yet robust applications of brain-machine interface systems. We are involved in several subprojects within the cluster:
  • AdvancedEDC advances the state of the art in highly integrated, electronically switchable intracortical electrode arrays. The concept of electronic depth control (EDC) will be pushed here to the limits for the benefit of the SEAM and LiNC visions of BrainLinks–BrainTools. We take advantage of commercially available 0.18-µm CMOS technology to pack as much intelligence in-situ as possible while keeping the power consumption low, thereby providing critical components for the realization of open- or closed-loop brain-machine interfaces. Our goal in this project is to develop and advance algorithms to analyze the recorded neural data, to extract relevant information and use this information for planning optimal actions of the probe.
  • Make It Real aims at combining motion capture techniques with large animal in vivo experimental studies to establish a test-bed for BrainLinks-BrainTools technology.The motion capture will be carried out simultaneously with wireless recordings of brain activity in wake-behaving large animals (sheep) to enable us to study movement-related activity in the sensorimotor cortex, which is important for testing BrainLinks-BrainTools technology for motor decoding. Therein our research focus lies on the development of appropriate techniques for accurately tracking animals in motion capture data.
  • NeuroBots intends to grant paralyzed or otherwise bodily disambled individuals an increased quality of life in the sense of regaining their freedom to interact naturally with the world. The overall aim of the project is therefore to enhance the autonomy and to improve the adaptation of brain-controlled intelligent robotic devices like robotic arms or mobile platforms such that control of these devices is possible on a higher cognitive level. On the computer science side, research will be focused on autonomy and reliability of robotic systems, particularly in the following areas: sensory perception of natural environments, closed-loop control of robots, learning and adaptivity, planning, robotic interaction with humans, assurance of safety and reliability conditions.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard

Embedded Microsystems

In the research prospects 2000+ the Max Planck Society states: "In the future, numerous objects of our daily life will contain embedded microsystems with interfaces to people and wireless connections to other objects. This requires reliable, highly meshed systems that will exceed the dimension of what we know today from the World Wide Web" - Applications in medical diagnostics, instrumented homes, manufacturing environments, and vehicles among others demand a systematic development of methods for the design and the secure operation of such embedded microsystems as well as the education of highly qualified scientists in this area. The PhD program "Embedded Microsystems" at the University of Freiburg strives for this goal.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard

EUROPA2 - European Robotic Pedestrian Assistant 2.0

Urban areas are highly dynamic and complex and introduce numerous challenges to autonomous robots. They require solutions to several complex problems regarding the perception of the environment, the representation of the robot's workspace, models for the expected interaction with users to plan actions, state estimation as well as the states of all dynamic objects, the proper interpretation of the gathered information including semantic information as well as long-term operation. The goal of the EUROPA2 project, which builds on top of the results of the successfully completed FP7 project EUROPA, is to bridge this gap and to develop the foundations for robots designed to autonomously navigate in urban environments outdoors as well as in shopping malls and shops, for example, to provide various services to humans. Based on the combination of publicly available maps and the data gathered with the robot's sensors, it will acquire, maintain, and revise a detailed model of the environment including semantic information, detect and track moving objects in the environment, adapt its navigation behavior according to the current situation and anticipate interactions with users during navigation. A central aspect in the project is life-long operation and reduced deployment efforts by avoiding to build maps with the robot before it can operate. EUROPA2 is targeted at developing novel technologies that will open new perspectives for commercial applications of service robots in the future.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard, Michael Ruhnke

HYBRIS - Hybrid Reasoning for Intelligent Systems

Knowledge Representation and Reasoning (KR&R) and, in particular, reasoning about actions, their effects and the environment in which actions take place, is fundamental for intelligent behaviour and has been a central concern in Artificial Intelligence from the beginning. To date, most KR&R approaches have focused on qualitative representations, which contrasts with requirements from many application domains where quantitative information needs to be processed as well. Examples of such quantitative aspects are time, probabilistic uncertainty, multi-criteria optimization, or resources like mass.

We are involved in the subproject HYBRIS-C1. The purpose of this project is to combine high-level and low-level reasoning techniques for mobile manipulation tasks. We are developing planners that reason about the information the robot needs in order to solve a task. We therefore combine planning, active perception, and manipulation to solve tasks like searching for and fetching a specific object.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard, Nichola Abdo

iVIEW - intelligente vibrotaktil induzierte erweiterte Wahrnehmung (Extended cognition by intelligent vibrotactile stimulation)

Visually impaired or blind people have a reduced ability to perceive their environment. Additional appliances such as canes extend their access to the surrounding, but at the downside of a drastically constrained perception radius. Devices equipped with ultrasound sensors reduce collisions but do not solve the problem of protecting the upper parts of the body. Furthermore, most available assisting systems use the auditory channel for information transfer. This is not desirable for visually impaired persons as acoustics play an important role in their process of acquiring spatial orientation. The iVIEW project pursues fast 3D obstacle detection in conjunction with a priority based information reduction as used in autonomous mobile robotics to generate a virtual representation of the surrounding. This information is transferred to the cognitive system of the human via the stimulation of skin receptors. Elaborate training schemes will be established to achieve a substitute spatial perception for blind and non-impaired people. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung).

Contact person: Wolfram Burgard, Knut Möller


LifeNav - Reliable Lifelong Navigation for Mobile Robots is a project funded by the European Commission within FP7. The goal of the LIFENAV project is to develop the foundations to design mobile robot systems that can reliably operate over extended periods of time in complex and dynamically changing environments. To achieve this, robots need the ability to learn and update appropriate models of their environment including the dynamic aspects and to effectively incorporate all the information into their decision-making processes.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard, Bastian Steder

ROTAH – Robot Task Learning by Active Tracking of Hands

This project desires to develop a system which enables a robot to learn tasks by observing a human user interacting with objects. With current techniques, a robot learns a task such as moving a bottle from the shelf to the table, by using kinesthetic training, manual scripting, or lengthy programming procedures. This project aims for a system that will render the teaching process easy also to the non-expert. It emphasizes the idea of learning-through-observation in a largely unconstrained environment. The robot observes the actions of the human operator by tracking their hands and by automatically detecting and tracking the manipulated object. From this data, the robot will learn a model to repeat the task in an unsupervised way. To this end, new methods from computer vision as well as robot learning and manipulation will be developed, and the performance of existing methods will be improved. The project is funded by the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung gGmbH.

Contact person: Wolfram Burgard, Thomas Brox, Luciano Spinello, Gian Diego Tipaldi, Andreas Lars Wachaja

SFB/TR-8 - Spatial Cognition

Spatial Cognition is concerned with the acquisition, organization, utilization and revision of knowledge about spatial environments, be it real or abstract, human or machine. Research issues range from the investigation of human spatial cognition to mobile robot navigation. The goal of the SFB/TR 8 is to investigate the cognitive foundations for human-centered spatial assistance systems. The SFB/TR 8 Spatial Cognition comprises several projects which are structured into the three research areas Reasoning, Action, and Interaction. Reasoning projects are concerned with internal and external representations of space and with inference processes using these representations. Action projects are concerned with the acquisition of information from spatial environments and with actions and behavior in these environments. Interaction projects are concerned with communication about space by means of language and maps.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard, Cyrill Stachniss


Part handling during the assembly stages in the automotive industry is the only task with automation levels below 30% due to the variability of the production and to the diversity of suppliers and parts. The full automation of such task will not only have a huge impact in the automotive industry but will also act as a cornerstone in the development of advanced mobile robotic manipulators capable of dealing with unstructured environments. Such automation will opening new possibilities in general for manufacturing SME's. The STAMINA project will use a holistic approach by partnering with experts in each necessary key fields, thus building on previous R&D to develop a fleet of autonomous and mobile industrial robots with different sensory, planning and physical capabilities for jointly solving three logistic and handling tasks: De-palletizing, Bin-Picking and Kitting. The robot and orchestration systems will be developed in a lean manner using an iterative series of development and validation testes that will not only assess the performance and usability of the system but also allow goal-driven research. STAMINA will give special attention to the system integration promoting and assessing the development of a sustainable and scalable robotic system to ensure a clear path for the future exploitation of the developed technologies. In addition to the technological outcome, STAMINA will allow to give an impression on how a sharing of work and workspace between humans and robots could look in the future.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard, Gian Diego Tipaldi, Luciano Spinello


The goal of TAPAS is to pave the ground for a new generation of transformable solutions to automation and logistics for small and large series production, economic viable and flexible, regardless of changes in volumes and product type. TAPAS pioneers and validates key components to realize this vision: mobile robots with manipulation arms will automate logistic tasks more flexible and more complete by not only transporting, but also collecting needed parts and delivering them right to the place where needed. TAPAS robots will even go beyond moving parts around the shop floor to create additional value: they will automate assistive tasks that naturally extend the logistic tasks, such as preparatory and post-processing works, e.g., pre-assembly or machine tending with inherent quality control. TAPAS robots might initially be more expensive than other solutions, but through this additional creation of value and by a faster adaptation to changes with new levels of robustness, availability, and completeness of jobs TAPAS robots promise to yield an earlier return of investment.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard, Gian Diego Tipaldi


ZAFH-AAL – Zentrum für Angewandte Forschung an Hochschulen für Ambient Assisted Living (Collaborative Center for Applied Research on Ambient Assisted Living)

The target of this project is the development of systems and technologies which allow elderly and disabled people to be independent and help them in sustaining social relationships with others. The project is motivated by current demographic developments, considering the need of the growing group of elderly people for an extended self-determined lifestyle in their accustomed environment. The systems and technologies created in this project will be an interdisciplinary cooperation under consideration of gerontological and socio-scientific aspects. The project is funded by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts (Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst).

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard, Christophe Kunze
Completed Projects

EUROPA - European Robotic Pedestrian Assistant

In the field of robotics, there has recently been a tremendous progress in the development of autonomous robots that offer various services to their users. Typical services include support of elderly people, cleaning, transportation and delivery tasks, exploration of unaccessible hazardous environments, or surveillance. Most of the systems developed so far, however, are restricted to indoor scenarios, non-urban outdoor environments, or road usage with cars. There is serious lack of capabilities of mobile robots to navigate safely in highly populated outdoor environments. This ability, however, is a key competence for a series of robotic applications. The goal of the EUROPA project is to bridge this gap and to develop the foundations for service robots designed to autonomously navigate in urban environments outdoors as well as in shopping malls and shops to provide various services to users including guidance, delivery, and transportation. EUROPA will develop and apply sophisticated probabilistic scene interpretation techniques to deal with the unpredictable and changing environments. Based on data gathered with its sensors, the robot will acquire a detailed model of the environment, detect and track moving objects in the environment, adapt its navigation behavior according to the current situation, and communicate with its users in a natural way, even remotely. Key innovations of the project are made by robustly and reliable addressing the autonomous navigation problem in complex and populated environments, the ability to build appropriate spatial models, and by reasoning about them based on the verbal and natural interaction with users. EUROPA is targeted at developing novel technologies that will open new perspectives for commercial applications of service robots in the future.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard


Autonomous micro flying robots combine a large variety of technological challenges and are therefore an excellent showcase for leading edge micro/nano technologies and their integration with information technology towards a fully operational intelligent micro-system. This project proposes, therefore, the development and implementation of the first fully autonomous micro helicopter comparable in size and weight to a small bird. The key challenges of the project include innovative concepts for power sources, sensors, actuators, navigation and helicopter design and their integration into a very compact system. The envisaged fully autonomous micro-helicopter will weight less than 30g and measure only 10cm in diameter. The project shall develop and demonstrate innovative approaches and technologies in:
(1) system level design and optimization of autonomous micro aerial vehicles,
(2) multifunctional use of components (integration of camera and distance sensor, batteries doubling as structural elements, or a propeller used for gyroscopic stabilization),
(3) design of ?smart? miniature inertial sensors and omnidirectional vision sensors with polar pixel arrangement,
(4) miniaturized fuel-cells,
(5) miniaturized piezoelectric actuators with enhanced power to weight ratios, and
(6) control and navigation concepts that can cope with limited sensor and processing performance.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard, Giorgio Grisetti

INDIGO - Interaction with Dialogue Enabled Robots

The goal of INDIGO is to develop technology that will facilitate the advancement of human-robot interaction. This will be achieved both by enabling robots to perceive natural human behaviour as well as by making them act in ways that are familiar to humans. Besides from the capability of recognizing and producing human speech and facial expressions, the robots will be able to navigate and maneuver in a socially compatible way. This comprises following and guidance behaviours as well as adapting and imitating human motion patterns, e.g. to avoid collisions. The final system will deployed in the premises of a museum to work as a robotic tour guide.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard, Kai Arras


The aim of the Rawseeds Project is to stimulate and support progress in autonomous robotics by providing a comprehensive, high-quality Benchmarking Toolkit. The absence of standard benchmarks is a widely acknowledged problem in the robotics field, and is doubly harmful to it: firstly, because it prevents recognition of scientific and technical progress, thus discouraging research and development; and secondly, because it prevents new actors (and particularly companies) from entering the robotic sector, as heavy investments are needed to compensate for that absence. Rawseeds datasets are sets of time-synced data streams, generated by the sensors aboard a robot platform when it moves through an environment. The datasets are gathered in real-world locations. The Rawseeds Benchmarking Toolkit is mainly targeted to the problems of localization, mapping and SLAM (i.e. Simultaneous Localization And Mapping) in robotics; but its use is not limited to them. It will be freely downloadable from this website, as soon as it is completed. By the way: "Rawseeds" means "Robotics Advancement through Web-publishing of Sensorial and Elaborated Extensive Data Sets".
Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard

DESIRE - The German Service Robotics Initiative

The project aims at integrating leading edge technology in the field of service robotics and to develop an open, extensible system architecture. The project is funded by the German ministery of research.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard

Situation Recognition in Dynamic Multi-Agent Systems

Funded by the Siemens Corporate Technology, Siemens AG, Munich, Germany. The goal of this project is to develop a model for spatio-temporal situations using hidden Markov models based on relational state descriptions, which are extracted from the estimated state of an underlying dynamic system. Our model covers concurrent situations, scenarios with multiple agents, and situations of varying durations.

Contact person: Wolfram Burgard

CoSy - Cognitive Systems for Cognitive Assistants

The main goal of the EU project CoSy is to advance the science of cognitive systems through a multi-disciplinary investigation of requirements, design options and trade-offs for human-like, autonomous, integrated, physical (eg., robot) systems, including requirements for architectures, for forms of representation, for perceptual mechanisms, for learning, planning, reasoning and motivation, for action and communication.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard

OpenSLAM - The resource for open source SLAM implementations.

The simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) problem has been intensively studied in the robotics community in the past. Different techniques have been proposed but only a few of them are available as implementations to the community. The goal of OpenSLAM.org is to provide a platform for SLAM researchers which gives them the possibility to publish and promote their algorithms.

Project Website
Contact person: Cyrill Stachniss, Giorgio Grisetti


GMapping is highly efficient Rao-Blackwellized particle filter for learning grid maps. The ideas are
(1) to draw the particles from an improved proposal, computed according to the most recent observation, and
(2) To resample whenever an indicator of the variance of the weights is below a given threshold.
The first allows for drawing the particles in a close position to the true posterior, while the second reduces the particle uncertainly. The sourcecode as well as several corrected and uncorrected datasets are available.

Project Website
Contact person: Giorgio Grisetti, Cyrill Stachniss

TORO - Tree-based netwORk Optimizer

TORO is an optimization approach for constraint-network. It provides a highly efficient, gradient descent-based error minimization procedure and one of the fastest methods so far (2007).
In 2006, Olson et al. presented a novel approach to solve the graph-based SLAM problem by applying stochastic gradient descent to minimize the error introduced by constraints. TORO is an extension of Olson's algorithm. It applies a tree parameterization of the nodes in the graph that significantly improves the performance and enables a robot to cope with arbitrary network topologies. The latter allows us to bound the complexity of the algorithm to the size of the mapped area and not to the length of the trajectory.

Project Website
Contact person: Giorgio Grisetti, Cyrill Stachniss

CARMEN - The Carnegie Mellon Robot Navigation Toolkit

CARMEN is an open-source collection of software for mobile robot control. CARMEN is modular software designed to provide basic navigation primatives including: module communication infrastructure, base and sensor control, obstacle avoidance, localization, path planning, and mapping.

Project Website
Contact person: Cyrill Stachniss

SmartTer - Smart All Terrain Vehicle

This project is a cooperation between the EPLF Lausanne (now ETH Zurich) and the University of Freiburg. The goal is to build an automous car based on a Smart. We participated in the European Land Rover Trials (ELROB).

Project Website

WebFAIR - Web Access to Commercial Fairs Through Mobile Agents

The EU funded project WebFAIR addresses the marketing and promotion requirements of large commercial exhibitions by providing broad access to information, services and commodities exhibited at the event. Essentially, WebFAIR aims at providing the means to remote corporate and private users for active and personalised workplace exploration and information visualisation for commercial purposes.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard

TOURBOT - Interactive Museum Tele-presence through Robotic Avatars

The goal of TOURBOT is the development of an interactive tour-guide robot able to provide individual access to museums' exhibits and cultural heritage over the Internet. TOURBOT operates as the user's avatar in the museum by accepting command over the web that direct it to move in its workspace and visit specific exhibits; besides, TOURBOT can also act as a flexible, on-site museum-guide. More specifically, the objectives of the project are the following: (1) develop a robotic avatar with advanced navigation capabilities that will be able to move (semi)autonomously in the museum's premises. (2) develop appropriate web interfaces to the robotic avatar that will realize distant-user's telepresence, i.e facilitate scene observation through the avatar's eyes, (3) facilitate personalized and realistic observation of the museum exhibits, and (4) enable on-site, interactive museum tour-guides.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard

NURSEBOT - Robotic Assistants for the Elderly

We have succeeded in helping people to live longer. Now we need to help them to live better.

The project PERSONAL ROBOTIC ASSISTANTS FOR THE ELDERLY is an inter-disciplinary multi-university research initiative focused on robotic technology for the elderly that brings together researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.
The goal of our project is to develop mobile, personal service robots that assist elderly people suffering from chronic disorders in their everyday life. We are currently developing anautonomous mobile robot that "lives" in a private home of a chronically ill elderly person. The robot provides a research platform to test out a range of ideas for assisting elderly people.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard

Rhino - The Interactive Museum Tour-guide Robot

The "Deutsches Museum Bonn"(German Museum Bonn) is the first museum for contemporary technology in Germany. This year, the "Deutsches Museum Bonn" contributes for the first time to the "Museumsmeilenfest" of the city of Bonn. The "Museumsmeilenfest", which takes place May 29 to June 1, is a great cultural event, at which the major museums in Bonn offer special exhibitions and tours. It is surrounded by many cultural attractions in the city of Bonn.
Visitors of the "Deutsches Museum Bonn" will have the opportunity to be shown through the museum by a MOBILE ROBOT. During the "Museumsmeilenfest" visitors can directly participate in several tours, guided by the mobile robot "RHINO". RHINO will explain what the people see, and upon request provide in-depth information concerning individual exhibits.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard

Minerva - Carnegie Mellon's Robotic Tourguide Project

Minerva is a talking robot designed to accommodate people in public spaces. She perceives her environment through her sensors (cameras, laser range finders, ultrasonic sensors), and decides what to do using her computers. Minerva actively approaches people, offers tours, and then leads them from exhibit to exhibit. When Minerva is happy, she sings and smiles at nearby people. But don't block her way too often--otherwise, she'll become frustrated and might frown at you and honk her horn! The goal of the Minerva project is to bring robots closer to people. Recent progress in robotics and artificial intelligence has made it possible to build interactive mobile robots that operate highly reliably in crowded environments. In the next decade, robots like Minerva are expected to become part of many people's lives, where they will assist them in their everyday activities, perform janitorial services, or simply entertain them. This project is carried out jointly by Carnegie Mellon University's Robot Learning Laboratory and the University of Bonn's Computer Science Department III, and sponsored by the Lemelson Center at the National Museum of American History. Minerva is a next generation robotic tourguide, built by the same group that developed the world's first robotic museum tourguide Rhino, displayed in the Deutsches Museum Bonn.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard

The Mobile Robot Rhino

The RHINO-project is a joint project between the "Institut f�r Informatik III" of the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universit�t Bonn and the Carnegie Mellon University (USA). The central scientific goal of the RHINO project is the analysis and synthesis of computer software that can learn from experience. The team believes that an essential aspect of future computer software will be the ability to flexibly adapt to changes, without human intervention. The ability to learn will soon enable robots like RHINO to perform complex tasks, such as transportation and delivery, tours through buildings, cleaning, inspection, and maintenance.

Project Website
Contact person: Wolfram Burgard
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