Collaboration in research
As part of the MIT-Germany Program, FAU and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are to collaborate even more closely in future
The sun shines brightly in a cloudless blue sky. Waves lap gently at a deserted beach, you can smell the sand and the sea. As realistic as it may be, this is just one example of a virtual world, the likes of which have been proven to promote physical and mental relaxation. All you need is a VR headset which allows you to immerse yourself completely in a 3D, 360 degree panorama of artificial worlds, a scent collar which releases the relevant smells and an EEC headband to measure brainwaves and determine the degree of relaxation. This has been the focus of research carried out by young researcher Robert Richer from the Chair of Machine Learning and Data Analysis at FAU together with Judith Amores and other scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Richer and his colleagues at MIT presented their findings this year at an international conference in Las Vegas, where they won the award for the best student paper. The paper was written whilst Richer was working on his Master’s thesis during his stay at the MIT Media Lab. Richer’s Master’s thesis was supervised by scientists at both MIT and FAU. Prof. Dr. Björn Eskofier from the Chair of Machine Learning and Data Analysis was not only one of the supervisors; he is also involved in several joint projects with researchers from MIT. For example, he has been working with Prof. Dr. Alex Pentland to develop new tracking systems and investigate how collecting data at work affects employees’ health, motivation and performance.
A win-win situation
Collaboration such as this is an important aspect of FAU’s internationalisation strategy and shows how closely the two universities are working together already. The MIT-Germany Program, an initiative launched by MIT in which FAU is also involved, hopes to nurture even closer ties in the future. ‘FAU is particularly well-suited for the programme as teaching and research are closely linked at both universities,’ says Eskofier, who is also the contact person at FAU for scientists interested in becoming involved in joint projects with MIT. The programme is part of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) which have the aim of advancing knowledge, encouraging enthusiasm for science and technology among students at school and university and promoting strategic partnerships with researchers, companies and governments across the globe.
MIT Germany can provide funding for joint projects in research and teaching, finance new projects at the start-up phase and promote international exchanges for scientists. ‘This should in turn benefit the students who are involved in the exchange. The programme also allows students from MIT to spend time abroad at FAU and its regional partners in industry, such as adidas and Siemens Healthineers,’ says Justin Leahey, manager of the MIT-Germany Program.
If they prefer, students can choose to take part in the Global Teaching Labs, which are aimed at school pupils, hoping to inspire them with enthusiasm for STEM subjects. ‘Students cooperate closely with schools in the region, offering tailored courses on scientific or engineering topics to bring research into schools. At the same time, this gives students the opportunity to improve their teaching skills,’ says Leahey. The research conducted by Richer and Eskofier are two examples of the fruitful scientific collaboration across national boundaries and continents. The MIT-Germany Program hopes to foster the cooperation even further.
Information on the MIT-Germany-Program is available at: http://misti.mit.edu/mit-germany
The FAU magazine alexander
This text was first published in our magazine alexander. Further topics of this issue: regrowing predator teeth and cephalopods, a robot smithy and an alumni meeting in Canada.