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DFKI Laboratory Niedersachsen is completed: Interactive Machine Learning research department opens in Oldenburg

| Press release | Health & Medicine | Industry 4.0 | Image Recognition & Understanding | Machine Learning & Deep Learning | Human-Machine Interaction | Language & Text Understanding | Interactive Machine Learning

The DFKI Laboratory Niedersachsen continues its growth: With the new, fourth research department Interactive Machine Learning (IML), Prof. Dr.-Ing. Daniel Sonntag and his team add a central topic to AI research in the state of Lower Saxony and bring their research competencies to the north. The IML research department of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) is created parallel to a new AI professorship at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg and sets a further milestone for the now completed DFKI Laboratory Niedersachsen on its way to becoming its own location.

© DFKI GmbH, Foto: Michael Barz
In one of the projects of the IML research department, image data from radiology is visualized in virtual reality and medical knowledge is used to improve machine learning models via natural language dialogue and digital pens.

Learning more from humans and making machine learning easier – with this intent, the new Interactive Machine Learning research department sets off do develop the foundations of intelligent algorithms and user interfaces. The youngest of the currently 22 research departments of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence is created by Prof. Dr.-Ing Daniel Sonntag parallel to his professorship at the University of Oldenburg. His research team, parts of which have previously worked at the DFKI location in Saarbrücken, supports the site in Oldenburg. With the fourth research department, the DFKI Laboratory Niedersachsen, which has been in existence since 2019, is for now completed.

In addition to the current fields of application of the laboratory – digital agriculture, marine economy, environmental protection and production – the new research department in Lower Saxony adds a central research topic: the interaction between humans and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Interactive machine learning involves finding easier ways to teach computers situational and intelligent behaviour – via natural dialogue, eye-tracking, digital pens and image recognition. The effective interaction and the capability to learn from human behaviour are meant to improve the deployment of AI technologies in areas such as medicine and the industry, inter alia.

Prof. Sonntag explains: “I see it as a great success to combine the competencies of my team in a new research department and to contribute to the AI research in Lower Saxony together with my colleagues of the DFKI Laboratory Niedersachsen, the University of Oldenburg and the sponsors of the professorship. It is a central question for many areas of Artificial Intelligence, how the increasingly complex AI systems can learn from humans and how the interaction is designed. It is the right decision to start developing the basics for an AI that is oriented towards humans.”

University and sponsors welcome the new team at the DFKI

The new research department is founded by Prof. Sonntag as part of the sponsored professorship titled “Applied Artificial Intelligence” at the Department for Computer Science of the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, which he has filled in November 2020. The professorship is financed for five years by a sponsor association consisting of CEWE, EWE AG, BÜFA GmbH & Co. KG, the OLB Foundation, Dr. Caroline Neumüller, Alexander Neumüller, the economic association DER KLEINE KREIS and the Foundation of the Metal Industry in the North West.

Prof. Dr. Dr. Hans Michael Piper, President of the University of Oldenburg, comments: “Competencies in the areas of digitization and Artificial Intelligence become increasingly substantial, also and especially in our region. We welcome the new DFKI research department and are looking forward to the joint research on this important subject.” The spokesperson of the association of sponsors, CEWE Chairman Dr. Christian Friege, adds: “For the regional economy, it is a great gain when the research competencies in Oldenburg are expanded and innovations in Artificial Intelligence are designed locally, nationally as well as on a European level.”

Successful cooperation on a regional and European level

With the fourth research department, the DFKI Laboratory Niedersachsen, led by Prof. Dr. Joachim Hertzberg, has reached its full size as planned. It consists of the research departments Plan-Based Robot Control (PBR) and Smart Enterprise Engineering (SEE) in Osnabrück as wells Interactive Machine Learning (IML) and Marine Perception (MAP) in Oldenburg. In addition, Prof. Dr. Oliver Zielinski has founded the DFKI competence centre “Artificial Intelligence for the Environment and Sustainability”, abbreviated DFKI4Planet, in Oldenburg in 2020.

The completion of the laboratory, which was founded on 1 April 2019, marks another milestone for the DFKI in the AI research landscape of Lower Saxony. Together with the new competence centre, several contributions to the European data infrastructure GAIA-X and the successful cooperation with the regional economy and science, the new IML research department strengthens the confidence that the laboratory will become its own location in a few years. Prof. Dr. Antonio Krüger, CEO of the DFKI:

“I am very happy that Daniel Sonntag, an experienced AI researcher and early member of the DFKI family takes over the lead. In the state of Lower Saxony, the DFKI does not only have an excellent partner for the future-oriented AI research – the state and its people also create an ideal environment to follow our motto and work on a human-centric Artificial Intelligence.”

Photo material:
In the DFKI cloud at you can find a photo ready for download. You may use this stating the source “DFKI GmbH, Photo: Michael Barz”.


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Daniel Sonntag

Interactive Machine Learning , DFKI

Press contact:

Corporate Communications Lower Saxony, DFKI