Prof. Dr. Hans-Peter Seidel: Start into a knowledge-based society

More cutting-edge research in Ger­­ma­­ny should facilitate the Excellence Initiative of the federal government and federal states in the coming years. Funds of 1.9 billion euros are available for this na­­tion­­wide until 2012 – financial means that should contribute to improving the international competitiveness of German colleges.

In a multistage process, the international group of experts summoned by the German Research Foun­­dation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG) awarded the contract at Saarland Uni­­versity as well as the request for a Cluster of Excellence to the theme “Multimodal Computing and Inter­­ac­­tion” and also the concept of an international graduate school for computing sciences in 2007.

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Together, both establishments shall be funded for this with around 40 mil­­lion euros by the federal government and states over the coming five years.

Start into a knowledge-based society
The starting point of the Cluster of Ex­­cellence is the observation that our liv­­ing and working conditions have dramatically changed over the past three decades – commonly described as the start into a knowledge-based society. To­­day, digital content is om­­ni­present. Ten years ago, such content generally consisted of text; today it is expanded as audio, video and graphics. It has be­­­­come a challenge to or­­ganize this multi­­modal information in a robust, efficient and intelligent manner, to understand and to in­­vestigate as well as to create re­­liable systems with intuitive multimodal in­­teraction opportunities.

The “Multimodal Computing and In­­teraction” Cluster of Excellence rises to this challenge. In this counted, the term “multimodal” describes various types of information such as text, language, pictures, video, graphics and high di­­mensional data as well as also types of perception and communication – par­­ticularly through seeing, listening and human expression.

Multimodal processing and interaction
Day-to-day interpersonal communica­­tion is based on a number of different modalities (language, mimic, gesture and so forth). The first research aim is a similar natural multimodal interaction with information systems, anywhere and at any time. The systems must consider the environmental context, react to language, text and gestures and reply with language, text, video, virtual representation or by means of virtual characters.

The second research aim is to im­­prove the abilities of computer systems to record, process and present data of completely different modalities efficiently and robustly. Also large, divid­­ed, noisy and incomplete multimodal data should be analyzed and interpret­­ed; the recorded knowledge should be prepared and visualized in real-time. We call this multimodal pro­cess­­ing.


Participating in the Cluster of Ex­­cel­lence are computer scientists, comput­­er linguists, linguists, phoneticians, bioinfor­­maticians, and also psychologists and sociologists. The Cluster is organized into nine re­­search areas.
Four of these (Text and Speech Pro­­cess­­­ing, Visual Computing, Algorithmic Foun­­­­da­­tions and Secure Autonomous Net­­worked Systems) are more basis-ori­­ent­­ed, while the other five (Open Science Web, In­­for­­­­ma­­tion Pro­­cessing in the Life Sciences, Large-Scale Virtual Environ­­ments, Synthetic Virtual Characters and Multimodal Dia­­lo­­gue Systems) are more strongly oriented to application. The cluster en­­co­­m­­pass­­es the leading German faculties for com­­pu­­ter sci­­enc­­es and com­­­pu­ta­­ti­­onal linguistics and phonetics of Saar­­­­land University, the Max Planck In­­s­­ti­­tute for Computer Sci­­ence, the Ger­­­­man Research Center for Artificial In­­telli­­gence as well as the newly-founded Max Planck Institute for Software Sys­­tems. A central aim of the cluster is the qualification and promo­­tion of the younger generation of scientists. The predominant part of the re­­quested means is therefore foreseen for the establishment of 20 junior groups. The engaged institutes have agreed upon a joint long-term research programme that forms the foundation of this venture.


AutorbildProf. Dr. Hans-Peter Seidel has been scientific director at the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science since 1999 as well as professor at Saarland University. He has been spokesman of the Excellence Cluster “Multimodal Com­­puting and Interaction” since 2007. In 2003, Seidel was awarded the Leibniz Prize by the German Research Foun­­dation (DFG) for his scientific performance.