The purpose of visiting labs outside the United States was to provide the sponsor with a sense of the nature and quality of research abroad and to find out whether the committee might learn something that is largely new to American researchers.
Members of the committee and staff visited Singapore and Germany in April and August, respectively. While the delegations were impressed with the quality of the research that they learned about during the site visits, they did not find completely novel approaches to the problems that the committee is addressing. This state of affairs is not surprising: Research has become so internationalized that most discussions and citations refer to multiple country sources. In several cases, even the funding for diverse projects comes from global sponsors. The differences are therefore more cultural than scientific and more relational than absolute. Consequently, what might be the most interesting about Germany and Singapore is how their approaches to research in human-machine collaboration and development differ from those of the United States and each other.1
Singapore focuses explicitly on applied research, technology transition, and commercialization. Its research teams—whether at Singapore’s A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) or in academia—are internationally integrated, with foreign nationals often holding the principal investigator position on a project. (Germany today is not so different in this respect. The DFKI [the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence], for example, has 154 researchers from 49 countries, with the largest number, 14, coming from China and the second largest, 13, from Russia.2) Singapore’s main distinction, at least anecdotally, might be how it merges its emphasis on application and commercialization with an utterly globalized approach to research and development (R&D) to build itself into a global hub for science and technology. Thus, while Germany and the United States (and other countries that are centers of R&D excellence) might focus more on producing cutting-edge research, Singapore is unique in its commitment to becoming an essential go-to destination for the world’s major industrial corporations.
As with Singapore, Germany also has a very strong commitment to applied research. Whereas Singapore explicitly relates their applied research to economic advancement, Germany focuses on the social aspect of applied research. For example, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the largest applied-research center in Europe, devotes their efforts “entirely to people’s needs: health, security, communication, energy and the environment.”3
Following are some of the highlights from the committee’s trips abroad.
1 See S&T Strategies of Six Countries: Implications for the United States (National Research Council, 2010).
2 Overview of DFKI’s Research Agenda, prepared for visit of CHMNI Delegation, August 1, 2013.
A delegation traveled to Singapore for meetings on April 15–19 that focused on technologies related to human-machine collaboration for decision making. The institutions that the delegation visited span the spectrum between research (A*STAR and several universities) and application (such as the Defence Science Organisation and the Public Utilities Board). (The full list of institutions and brief descriptions of these visits can be found in this appendix).
Most of the technology that the delegation saw might not be considered cutting edge, although much of it is comparable to relevant efforts in the United States. Rather, one is struck by the breadth of this small country’s R&D interests and the extent to which Singapore’s scientists and technologists—regardless of national origin—exhibit a strong commitment to commercialize its research.
Two themes emerged consistently throughout the visit. The first, as described above, was the focus on applied research, technology transition, and commercialization. The pervasive message was that science and technology should serve business and industry. This principle was apparent at universities and research labs, and it led to strong efforts to develop industrial collaborations. It also contributed to the second theme, which was the development of international research collaborations and consortia and efforts to colocate researchers. The country aimed its scientific efforts not at basic research for the sake of knowledge acquisition, but at bringing people in, creating jobs, and/or inventing and improving technology.
The delegation spoke with several U.S. professors (by loan or direct hire) who, when pressed, revealed the benefits of working in Singapore. Topmost on their list was the freedom to pursue their research questions (typically advanced subjects that would push technological and privacy-related boundaries in the United States)—autonomous cars and social network research, for example (Singapore Management University and CREATE or the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise). These professors also noted a particular type of collaboration setup spurred by the nature of Singaporean experimentation, with several universities and programs sharing a building on the same campus.
Singapore’s style of governance allows the country to do some things relevant to this report’s topic that would not be possible in the United States. In particular, it can achieve a high level of compliance in some areas that are considered personal choice in this country; similarly, Singapore’s practices regarding respect for privacy are different from those exercised here. For example, all of the intersections with signals have sensors, as do highways. If a car breaks down, the system detects that the vehicle has pulled over and alerts traffic marshals. The intense monitoring not only facilitates service for the stranded motorist but also allows measurements of performance (such as how long it takes emergency crews to arrive) that can be used for assessment and future development. Similarly, all taxis contain sensors. Their movements allow larger traffic flow to be tracked.
As a result of these and related data-gathering activities, Singapore is positioned to be a leader in the new “data economy.” Just as smart phones have stimulated a boom in cell-phone app development, large collections of new data might well prompt a flurry of innovation around how to use those data. Committee members suggested that Singapore is accumulating data in a more organized and comprehensive way than many other countries. This practice has a huge potential economic impact.
SINGAPORE VISIT SCHEDULE
April 15, Monday
AM: Nanyang Technological University: Centre for Computational Intelligence
PM: A*STAR: Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R)
April 16, Tuesday
AM: CHMNI group discussion
PM: Dinner with a small group from the Symposium of Computational Intelligence, Cognitive Algorithms, Mind and Brain
April 17, Wednesday
AM: Defence Science Organization, Singapore
PM: A*STAR: Institute for High Performance Computing
Singapore Management University (LARC)
April 18, Thursday
AM: A*STAR: I2R (Part 2)
PM: Site Visits to Public Utilities Board (flood control) and Land Transport Authority (traffic control)
April 19, Friday
AM: Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology (SINAPSE)
Singapore University of Technology and Design
PM: National Research Foundation
SMART Center (Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology)
The delegation visited DFKI, the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, in Saarbrucken and Kaiserslautern on August 1; and the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics, located in Wachtberg (a suburb of Bonn), on August 2. A committee member also met with Peter Hagoort in Berlin on August 3. Dr. Hagoort is director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, located in Njimgen, The Netherlands.
DFKI represents a private-public partnership of 16 companies, 3 universities, and 3 regional administrations that also receives funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, the German Research Foundation, and the European Union. They have 171 ongoing projects spread out among primarily four cities across Germany. These projects range from blue-sky research to commercialization in the area of software systems based on artificial intelligence. This institute does not have an obvious corollary in the United States. DFKI also hosts six “living labs” that house real equipment for advanced demonstrations in retail, advanced driver assistance, robotics, smart factories, smart cities, and ambient assistance.
Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster, director of DFKI, organized five presentations at DFKI in Saarbrucken and three more in Kaiserslautern. The presentations at Saarbrucken emphasized how computer-assisted technologies—from suggesting restaurants close by (called “choosability engineering”) to stocking shelves, to driving and parking—can help with everyday life. The afternoon talks ranged from the “semantic desktop,” a program that acts like a personal assistant, to real-time crowd monitoring, to body, hand, and object tracking; to 3-dimensional reconstruction under controlled conditions.
The next day, the delegation visited the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics, or FKIE. This institute is part of Fraunho fer-Gesellschaft, an organization of 59 research institutes that conducts applied research for public and private enterprise and for social benefit. FKIE’s research areas include unmanned systems, distributed information processing in heterogeneous systems, multisensor data fusion and ergonomics and human-machine systems. The delegation’s host was Frank O. Flemisch, who directs the Department of Ergonomics and Human-Machine Systems. During this afternoon visit, FKIE researchers discussed and demonstrated several of their research projects, including human-machine interface design for command and control systems, methods and tools for human-machine integration, and cooperative vehicle control.
Both of the research institutes that the delegation visited are very interested in human-machine collaboration. Interestingly, much of the research explicitly seeks to mitigate technology overreliance. For example, if the computer-assist mechanism in a car does not experience human engagement for a period of time, it will ask whether the human wants to continue using the automatic system. It is possible that the social (as opposed to economic or defense) emphasis on research is an oblique reference to and refutation of Germany’s past.
AGENDA for the VISIT to DFKI, SAARBRUKEN, and KAISERSLAUTEN
|August 1, 2013|
|9:00 – 9:45||Introduction: Overview of DFKI’s Research Agenda Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster, CEO, DFKI|
|9:45 – 10:10||Introduction to Choosability Engineering Prof. Dr. Anthony Jameson and Catalin Barbu|
|10:10 – 10:25||Parallel Exploration as a General Approach to Decision Support Prof. Dr. Anthony Jameson and Adrian Spirescu|
|10:25 – 10:40||Coffee break|
|10:40 – 11:00||A Situation-adaptive Multimodal Dialogue Platform for the Car Dr. Michael Feld|
|11:00 – 11:20||Process Mining as an Instrument for Decision Making in Organizations PD Dr. Peter Fettke|
|11:20 – 12:00||Agents and Semantics for Human Decision Making: Showcases and Challenges PD Dr. Matthias Klusch|
|12:00 – 12:15||Wrap-up|
|12:15 – 13:15||Lunch|
|13:15 – 14:15||Drive to Kaiserslautern|
|14:30 – 15:00||Decision Support for Knowledge Workers Prof. Dr. H. C. Andreas Dengel|
|15:00 – 15:45||Collaborative Social Sensing: New Human Machine Systems Dr. George Kampis|
|15:45 – 16:15||Video Analytics for User Support in Industrial and City Context Prof. Dr. Didier Stricker|
|16:15 – 16:30||Wrap-up|
AGENDA for VISIT to FRAUNHOFER INSTITUTE
Visit of NRC
|Patricia W. Wrightson, Katia Sycara
Frank Flemisch, Jessica Schwarz,Elena Dalinger et al.
13:00 – 13:30
|Fl||Introduction to Fraunhofer, FKIE,HSI|
|Overview of program|
15:15 – 15:35
|Dalinger||Assistant systems for security on civil ships|
15:35 – 15:55
|Schwarz||Workload assessment and assistant systems|
16:00 – 16:30 future
|Schwarz I Kaster||Demo Command & Control Center of the|
16:30 – 17:00
|Heesen/Krasni||Demo Design Lab for Automation|
16:30 – 17:00
|All||Discussion on transatlantic scientific|