Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Machines learn how to learn


On 30 November, the Max Planck ETH Center for Learning Systems was inaugurated in Tübingen

For humans, and for animals in general, it is normal; but machines have first to learn it: how to learn. To assist them in this process, the Max Planck Society and the ETH Zurich have set up the Max Planck ETH Center for Learning Systems. The researchers at the Center want to understand what the principles of learning are - in theory as well as in real machines. They want to get robots to act autonomously in an unknown, complex environment, among other things.

© Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems

The Center is an essential element in the development of the research field of learning and intelligent systems in Baden-Württemberg. On the basis of their cooperation, the MPG and the ETH provide scientific and personnel synergies and ensure that European research in this field remains competitive worldwide," said Max Planck President Martin Stratmann with a view to the inauguration ceremony on 30 November in Tübingen.

Baden-Württemberg’s Minister of Science, Research and the Arts, Theresia Bauer, the Swiss ambassador Christine Schraner Burgener, Max Planck President Martin Stratmann as well as ETH President Lino Guzzella were expected to attend.

Robots as disaster relief workers could save human rescue teams from having to undertake dangerous operations. And as nursing assistants they could help to cope with the problems of an ageing society with more and more people needing assistance. It will be a few years yet before they are able to undertake such tasks, however.

After all, two-legged robots today cannot move autonomously across an uneven floor – their motoric skills do not adapt quickly enough to unfamiliar terrain. If the machines learned as well as insects, not to mention human beings, a rocky path at least would no longer present a problem. The Max Planck ETH Center for Learning Systems aims to equip them with this ability to learn.

“We not only want to solve application problems, such as teaching a two-legged robot how to move on uneven ground,” says Bernhard Schölkopf, a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen and one of two Co-Directors of the Center in addition to Thomas Hofmann from ETH Zurich. “We first want to understand what constitutes the intelligence of living beings which enables them to organize perception, learning and action and to act successfully in a complex environment.”

Artificial systems should learn like living beings

The researchers then want to use the insights from these fundamental investigations to further develop the methods of machine learning. These methods are already in use today to detect statistical regularities in large sets of data. But they are always limited to specific tasks. A method for reliably recognizing faces on images, for example, does not help a robot to practise moving steadily over any type of terrain.

“The learning ability of humans in particular is largely independent of the specific task, in contrast,” explains Schölkopf. “If we have a better understanding of how what has been learned can be transferred to different tasks, we could possibly develop artificial systems which learn like living beings.”

The general principles of learning should then not only impart intelligence to robots, but also to the software which analyzes large volumes of data, for example. Computers should no longer determine only statistical relationships in large sets of data, but also causal ones. They should autonomously estimate the effect of genetic modifications in data about the genetic code or protein interactions; these are causal relationships about which even medical professionals still have no knowledge to date.

The Max Planck ETH Center, which is the home of the collaboration between researchers from Tübingen, Stuttgart and Zürich, builds on an existing cooperation between the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and the ETH Zurich in the field of machine learning. Its objectives are not only scientific collaboration, but also the joint use of research infrastructure and the training of doctoral students. Joint summer schools and workshops will be organized via the Center. The Center will receive total funding of five million euros in the first five years, and this will be contributed equally by the Max Planck Society and the ETH Zurich.


Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schölkopf
Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Tübingen site, Tübingen
Phone: +49 7071 601-551

Fax: +49 7071 601-552


Claudia Däfler
Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart site, Stuttgart
Phone: +49 711 689-3094

Fax: +49 711 689-1932


Jens Eschert
Press and Public Relations

Administrative Headquarters of the Max Planck Society, München
Phone: +49 89 2108-1488


Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schölkopf | Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Tübingen site, Tübingen

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Green Light for Galaxy Europe
15.03.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Tokyo Tech's six-legged robots get closer to nature
12.03.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>