The Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics was founded by Werner Reichardt in 1968, but its origins lie in the "Cybernetics Research Group" formed in 1958 at the Max Planck Institute for Biology. From the beginning, the institute´s research interests centered on the acquisition and processing of visual information in the nervous system, originally in the form of the behavioral analysis of the visual system of insects. With the advances made in perception theory and innovations in the area of experimental tools, the thematic focus of the institute has shifted toward the elucidation of cognitive processes. This is reflected in the special interests of the new directors appointed in the last 10 years. Their new departments, "Cognitive Human Psychophysics" (formed in 1993) and "Physiology of Cognitive Processes" (founded in 1997) employ complementary methodological approaches to the systems analysis of complex processes in the brains of primates. The institute´s new orientation was rounded out with the department "Empirical Inference for Machine Learning and PerceptionAreas of Research" in 2001.
The department "Cognitive and Computational Psychophysics" (Prof. Dr. H. H. Bülthoff) studies the visual and haptic recognition of objects, orientation and navigation in three-dimensional space, and the information processing underlying both. One question lies at the core of both of these topics: How are shape and space represented in the brain so that we can name and grasp objects or move in a given space (such as a unfamiliar town)? The use of computer graphics and "virtual reality" makes it possible to carry out interactive experiments with human volunteers under strictly controlled conditions. The results have already been applied in machine vision systems in the automatic synthesis of faces and facial expressions and in automatic course-control of autonomous robots.
Director: Prof. Dr. Heinrich Bülthoff, Secretary: Dagmar Maier, Phone: (+49 7071) 601 - 601
The department "Physiology of Cognitive Processes" (Prof. Dr. N. Logothetis) concentrates on visual perception in primates. Their research focuses on the following questions: What influence do (a) the environment or setting of an object, (b) the object´s size and (c) its surface structure have on object recognition? Where in the brain is visual perception located? These questions are pursued in combined psychophysical and electrophysiological experiments utilizing nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. For these experiments the animals must learn to classify and identify objects.
Director: Prof. Dr. Nikos Logothetis, Secretary Conchy Moya, Phone: (+49 7071) 601 - 651
The theory department "Empirical Inference for Machine Learning and Perception" (Prof. Dr. B. Schölkopf) studies theory and applications of statistical learning theory. Examples thereof are the design of new machine learning algorithms, the study and modeling of perceptual tasks performed by animate visual systems, and the application of machine learning methods to problems ranging from computer vision to bioinformatics.
Director: Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schölkopf, Secretary: Sabrina Nielebock, Phone: (+49 7071) 601 - 551
At present (beginning of 2003) the institute employs 148 people: 22 scientists, 67 junior scientists, 9 scholarship holders and 13 visiting scientists.
Max-Planck-Institut für Biologische Kybernetik
Further information: http://www.kyb.tuebingen.mpg.de/