Sensation in 3D
Prof. Dr. Andreas Tünnermann, Institutsleiter Fraunhofer IOF
The 3Dsensation innovation alliance, which currently includes 20 research institutions and 45 companies, is pursuing the goal of radically changing how humans and machines interact. Prof. Dr. Tünnermann is the spokesman for 3Dsensation and Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering in Jena, Germany, and the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Jena.
1. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) announced the ten winners of the "Twenty20 – Partnership for Innovation" program on July 18, 2013. The 3Dsensation consortium, with you at the head, was one of the winners. How does one win a BMBF prize"?
Prof. Dr. Tünnermann: Humans constantly interact with their habitat and their environment. It is especially our visual sense – in other words, our sight – that enables us to find our way around in unknown environments, to understand complex information and interpersonal communication. This largely takes place non-verbally through facial expressions, gestures, and body language. Our ability to perceive dynamic movements and to link them with knowledge and experience enables us humans to analyze complex scenarios, to initiate decision-making processes, and to act accordingly.
The world of machines, robots, and technical systems is an inherent part of our lives – but still barriers and anxieties are noticeable, caused by the systems' complexity and lack of transparency. To date, interaction between humans and machines has largely been limited to the unnatural use of defined input and output media.
At present, we are facing the social task of radically changing how humans and machines interact in our lives and in our working environments - especially for the benefit of humans. The 3Dsensation alliance is pursuing a trans-disciplinary, multidisciplinary, and inter-sectoral approach. It includes human factor and creativity sciences, cognition and neurosciences, natural and technology sciences, legal and social sciences and, in this way, creates a new generation of 3D technologies for man-machine interaction. The bundling of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and large companies, universities, and research institutions into an innovation platform maps the complete supply chain and generates cross-industry synergies.
We convinced the BMBF with this unique constellation of cooperation and research approaches to develop comprehensive economic, scientific, and administrative structures.
2. What are the goals of the 3Dsensation alliance?
Prof. Dr. Tünnermann: The 3Dsensation innovation alliance is pursuing the goal of radically changing how humans and machines interact. People should be able to work with machines and all kinds of technical systems more naturally and intuitively, more safely and efficiently. This requires a complete change in man-machine interaction to take account of the needs and experiences of humans.
3. What important partners are involved in this?
Prof. Dr. Tünnermann: At present, 20 research institutions are participating in the 3Dsensation consortium. The innovation alliance cooperates with 45 companies from the production, mobility, security, and health industries. The "cross-border synergies" created as a result of this promote innovative strength and enable 3Dsensation to quickly penetrate the markets with the new technologies. For example, the 3Dsensation alliance creates cross-sectoral breakthrough innovations in 3D information recording, processing, and rendition as the basis for trendsetting, efficient, and secure man-machine interaction in social and economically important areas of demand and core industries in the German economy.
4. What technological foundations is your "sensation" based upon?
Prof. Dr. Tünnermann: To achieve the strategic goal, development of a new generation of 3D technologies to take images, process information, and for visualization is being promoted in a trans-disciplinary and inter-sectoral research approach. It involves integrating research work in cognition and neurosciences, social and human factor sciences, and creative and information sciences. Because of the matrix-like structure of the alliance, there is an effective linkage of R&D topics and also an extensive use of synergy potentials over and above the specified areas of demand.
From a technological aspect, the aim is that machines capture not only the static objects in their surroundings but also the dynamic ones, that they automatically recognize the behavior and intentions of their users and align their responses to these. In combination with the latest research results in cognition science and the advances being made in data processing, it should be possible to revolutionize how humans, machines and the environment interact. This interaction, but also intelligent methods of capturing and recognizing objects and modeling environments represent completely new challenges as regards the 3D process chain to be developed and the technologies that are involved.
The process chain consists of three stages: capturing 3D information, processing 3D information, and rendering 3D information and interaction. At present, possible solutions for capturing highly dynamic 3D information – depending on the application and the associated parameters – involve various sensor principles that are a basis for developments in the 3Dsensation alliance. These include facet vision – microscopic array cameras derived from biological vision principles – and their application as 3D camera systems, time-of-flight cameras and 3D sensors based on high-speed pattern projection.
5. What areas will 3Dsensation be used in?
Prof. Dr. Tünnermann: In the 3Dsensation alliance we are creating solutions for industrial production, health care, mobility, and security that are viable for the future.
In production, 3Dsensation will enable a symbiosis of humans and machines with the help of robots that ensure a safe environment for humans in production processes.
In the health industry, capturing of 3-dimensional information and visualization will allow new forms of diagnosis and therapy. This will range from early detection of age-related diseases to rehabilitation assistants and care robots with new functionalities.
For the mobility market, 3-dimensional capturing and analysis of the driver's actions is important for future driver assistance and safety systems. Gesture-based control of driver assistance systems allows drivers to focus more on the primary task of driving - a requirement for accident-free driving.
In the area of security, the capture and evaluation of spatial information facilitates the identification of persons, and virtual evaluation of security-relevant scenarios.
6. Which of these markets will you address first? Where is the most urgent demand?
Prof. Dr. Tünnermann: We are currently prioritizing four markets. In the strategy phase, the most promising segments and growth areas will be evaluated on the basis of market research that still has to be carried out.
7. At the end of 2013, the 3Dsensation alliance held its first strategy workshop. What were the most important results?
Prof. Dr. Tünnermann: With more than 90 participants from science and industry, the event was the first major step in the strategy phase of the BMBF's Twenty20 program. The main requirements for the production, health, mobility, and security industries were discussed and evaluated in four different workshops. In all the markets that we addressed similar legal and technical challenges were identified that will enable many synergies in the development of suitable solutions – this is where we have to prioritize.
Thank you for the interview.
Dipl. Ing. Nachrichtentechnik