Max Planck Institute for Informatics

Max Planck Institute for Informatics

Computers, as well as the programs that run on them and the networks they form – with the worldwide Internet leading the way – are the most complex structures ever made by the human beings. This makes computer systems both powerful and mysterious tools. Today's world is a digital world. Ten years ago, data consisted mostly of text; today, however, there is also audio, image and video data. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics are concerned with the issue of how we can come to grips with computer systems, and how we can avoid information overload in the modern-day flood of data. The scientists basically want to understand how algorithms and programs work, how complex processes can be simplified, and how we can use the abundance of available data to receive automatic answers from computers to the diverse questions we face.

Contact

Campus E1 4
66123 Saarbrücken
Phone: +49 681 9325-0
Fax: +49 681 9325-5719

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS for Computer Science

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Computational Biology and Applied Algorithmics

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Department Algorithms and Complexity

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Department Computer Vision and Multimodal Computing

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Department Databases and Information Systems

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Lip-syncing thanks to artificial intelligence

A new piece of software adapts the facial expressions of people in videos to match an audio track dubbed over the film

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An eye to character

A new computer system is using artificial intelligence to identify people’s personality traits from their eye movements.

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Max Planck Innovation awards machine text comprehension technology licence

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3D animation with a conventional camera

The 3D movements of a person can be reconstructed based on the recordings of a smartphone or a webcam

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Reality, realistically augmented

A new augmented reality computer programme can edit colours and materials in video streams in realtime

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He was one of the first computer science students in Germany. Today, Kurt Mehlhorn, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbruecken, can look back on the many problems he has solved – with solutions that are also applicable to navigation systems and search engines. At least as important to him, however, are the numerous academic careers that began in his group. And he still has ideas for new research projects.

Researchers normally formulate a hypothesis before beginning an experiment and collecting data. Pauli Miettinen from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken is turning this scientific principle on its head with a new procedure for analyzing data – redescription mining. The software can analyze existing datasets and retrospectively extract hypotheses and unexpected correlations. These, in turn, give scientists important clues for asking new questions – for example, when the task is to capture the political mood among the population.

These days, animated figures in films and in computer games are often true to life. After all, they are created with sophisticated three-dimensional models of bodies and faces. Christian Theobalt and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken are making it much easier for graphic artists to generate such models – enabling applications that were previously inconceivable.

Movies with audio descriptions help blind people understand the storyline. Could computers take over the task of transforming moving images into natural language? Anna Rohrbach, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken, and her husband, Marcus Rohrbach, who conducted research at the same Institute until recently, have made it their mission to make that possible. They aim to develop a computer that can automatically generate and read out film descriptions.

His research looks hip and colorful. The prototypes are made from wood, paper and plastic. Cut, printed or pressed. But there’s more to them than meets the eye: Jürgen Steimle and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and at Saarland University in Saarbrücken are concentrating their efforts on a fully interconnected world in which, for example, computing devices are activated via skin-worn sensors.

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Containing Metastability or: The Art of Choosing between two Equal Bales of Hay

2018 Lenzen, Christoph.; Wiederhake, Ben

Computer Science

Unlike Buridan’s ass, horses do not starve to death when placing them exactly between two identical bales of hay. But what happens, if the horse does not see whether there’s hay to its left and/or right? What if we don’t know either, and if we possibly can’t see where the horse goes? Can we reliably decide whether the horse starves? Interestingly, answers to such questions become highly relevant when considering so-called metastability in circuits. This article explains these terms, their connection, and why it is important to know whether the horse dies or not.

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Reconstruction of cell lineage trees

2017 Andres, Björn1; Schiele, Bernt1; Jug, Florian2; Blasse, Corinna2, Myers, Eugene W.2

Computer Science

Rapid progress in light microscopy allows biologists to image the development of living tissue consisting of several thousand cells. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics are jointly developing algorithms for reconstructing the lineage of all cells automatically from image data. A central aspect of their research consists in an approach by which two sub-problems are solved jointly, an image segmentation problem and a cell tracking problem. This approach has enabled accurate reconstructions of lineage trees.

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Advances in technologies enable thin and elastic touch displays that can be worn right on human skin. This could help to bring about a new paradigm for interacting with mobile computing devices: human skin turns into an interactive surface, which captures user input and provides visual or haptic output. The long-term goal of this new research direction is to develop more intuitive and more expressive user interfaces for computing devices, which are safe and efficient to use even during challenging mobile activities.

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Solving the Unsolvable

2016 Weidenbach, Christoph

Computer Science

"Learning from Conflicts" is one of the most important strategies for solving computationally hard problems. By guessing a solution that respects local constraints either an overall solution is obtained or a conflict. A conflict can be efficiently turned into further constraints for the problem. "Learning from Conflicts" has pushed the performance of computer programs on hard problems to a new level. For example, automatic verification of computer hardware has turned from an academic discipline into an industry standard.

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Algorithms for knowledge extraction from texts and Web sources have enabled the construction of machine-readable knowledge bases which comprise millions of entities and billions of facts about and relationships between entities. Computers can harness such digital knowledge to semantically interpret natural language, correctly disambiguating even highly ambiguous names and phrases. This deep language understanding opens up better ways of text analytics, question-answer dialogs, and human-computer interaction.

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