The Cluster of Excellence EXC 2050-1 "CeTI - Center for Tactile Internet with Human-in-the-Loop", which focuses on efficient cooperation between humans and machines in the real and virtual world, is funded within the framework of the Excellence Strategy of the Federal Government and the states of the Federal Republic of Germany. The general objective is to enable humans to interact in real time with cooperating cyber-physical systems (CPS), such as robots or virtual avatars. To develop the necessary technological bases, an understanding of the psychological and physical implications of efficient human-machine cooperation as well as continuous communication of the research results to society and industry, scientists from the Technische Universität Dresden/Germany (TUD) from the engineering sciences (electrical and communications engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science), the natural sciences (psychology, neuroscience) and medicine are working together interdisciplinarily with researchers from the Technische Universität München, Munich/Germany, the German Aerospace Center, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and international scientific institutions. From the very beginning, these scientific collaborations have been supplemented by partnerships and joint projects with industrial partners from a wide range of branches and company sizes in order to enable the most comprehensive interdisciplinary research possible in the key areas of human control in human-machine cooperation, in software and hardware design, for sensor and actuator technologies as well as for the necessary communication networks. The intended research results have the potential to be used in basically all areas of human life - for example as a platform for new applications in medicine, industry (Industry 4.0, Co-working) and the 'Internet of Skills' (education, rehabilitation) .
Cooperation as a scientific-technical objective and working philosophy
The success of digitalization continues constantly, and the networking of devices and processes is steadily increasing. In the foreseeable future, our everyday lives will be characterized by the support of more or less autonomously acting technical systems, i.e. robots. Scientists at the TUD will play a significant role in shaping the path to this future within the framework of the CeTI.
Institute of Textile Machinery and High Performance Material Technology (ITM), as one of 2 contributing TUD institutes from the field of mechanical engineering, is one of the main hardware developers in the CeTI consortium. The research in this context focuses primarily on the development and implementation of technological solutions for multimodal functionalized e-textiles as an interface between humans and (virtual) machines. For this purpose, 2 basic concepts are being followed and evaluated in order to capture the condition information of the human body as latency-free and precisely as possible, and be able to provide situation-specific haptic, acoustic and/or optical feedback:
In intensive dialogue with colleagues from other disciplines, the ITM represents the wide-ranging possibilities of textile technology for function integration and fully integrated production of ready-to-use structures (e.g. Fully Fashion Technology with individualized, optimized fit) in the future-oriented CeTI research field. Through the development and provision of requirement-specific textile substrates, which can be used by the research partners to test and improve their (e.g. electronic) systems and their integrability, as well as the ITM’s own development and integration of sensor and actuator systems at the fiber, yarn and fabric level (Fig. 1), the existing broad expertise at the institute in these research fields is being further enhanced and incorporated into the practical research activities of the cluster.
A perfect example of the need for interdisciplinary exchange in this complex context is the feedback of information to people - beyond visual or voice-based feedback. In order to provide meaningful and effective feedback, profound knowledge of human perception and psychoacoustics is essential. The chairs of Acoustics and Haptics (Electrical Engineering) and Engineering Psychology and Applied Cognitive Research (Psychology) have been successfully researching these topics for many years. In close cooperation with the ITM, e-textiles with integrated feedback functions can be developed that take into account not only the physical but also the psychological and cognitive aspects of human perception as an essential part of the system specifications from the very first step of development.
To illustrate the progress of CeTI research, technology demonstrators are developed and tested frequently. Sensor gloves, e.g. with structurally integrated gesture recognition, are very important as a tool for the intuitive digitization of human actions, gestures, etc. With the example shown in Fig. 2, for example, a robot hand can be controlled wirelessly, almost in real time. In the future, gloves like this will enable the intuitive, virtual operation of technical devices, instruments etc. Thus, textile technologies and products will remain essential for people and their communication with their (technical) environment, even in an increasingly digital future.
Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) as part of Germany’s Excellence Strategy – EXC 2050/1 – Project ID 390696704 – Cluster of Excellence “Center for Tactile Internet with Human-in-the-Loop” (CeTI) of Technische Universität Dresden.