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Competence Center

Wearable AI

The availability of miniaturized sensors and large mobile processing capacities combined with a high acceptance of mobile devices has led to a widespread use of wearable components. Heart rate monitors for running, step counters for hiking, blood pressure sensors for health applications, body tracking suits for motion analysis and skin conductivity measurement for stress estimation -- just to mention a few -- are already available tools for everyday use. The demand for such self-monitoring systems both in consumer level devices as well as in professional equipment has increased dramatically.

The "Competence Center Wearable AI" aims at centralizing the development of wearable technologies at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence. As cross-department virtual organization unit it serves as communication platform for all wearable technology related topics. It is considered as central contact point combining all projects and development in the area of body worn technology with the goal to increase public visibility. The competence center is also considered as contact point for international researchers and industry contacts worldwide with the focus on wearable sensing and computing. Relevant application scenarios of these wearable technologies include both consumer level devices as well as professional equipment for specialized high performance analysis.

A major goal of the competence center is the improvement of the scientific position of the DFKI. The research topics to be addressed are grouped into the subtopics wearable system design, data analysis, human interaction as well as applications.

Wearable System Design
The design and realization of wearable devices differs significantly from standard mobile devices. Touch interaction is often impossible, sensors and other components might be distributed and the software design is shared over several nodes. Special attention here has to be paid to the realization of hardware and software components. Especially aspects of power management, the design of software architectures, the implementation of actuators and the integration into textiles is of major importance.

Recent development in this area has shown that mobile applications from smartphones cannot directly be transferred to embedded textile systems. A specialized design concerning seamless integration and novel rugged, non-obtrusive components, even for underwater usage, have to be developed considering aspects of user acceptance.

Wearable Sensing
The ability to place devices in close contact with different body parts opens up new sensing concepts: from new ways of measuring vital signs through the detection of emotions to various internal body function. Such sensing concepts must combine the ability to reliably extract useful information with

a variety of wearability constraints such as flexibility, weight, power consumption,tolerance of motion artifacts and price. The design, implementation and testing of novel wearable sensors tailored to the above requirements is a key competence at DFKI. Previous work includes new textile capacitive sensors for nutrition monitoring, novel magnetic motion tracking sensors and large scale, textile restive pressure sensor matrices.

Data Analysis
The realization of embedded distributed sensor and actuator frameworks naturally generates a huge amount of data. This data has to be analyzed and processed in order to provide interactive feedback. In comparison to standard desktop applications special attention has to be paid on the mobile nature of wearable technologies. Power availability, processing capabilities and storage are limited resources, especially if long term operation is considered. Topics of interest are robust activity recognition, personalized data processing, power-aware sensor data fusion and user modeling. Physical and mental health monitoring and different types of personal assistance systems are important applications.

Data analysis tools for wearable devices additionally have to deal with temporal sensor loss, human acceptance and privacy issues.

Human Interaction
Wearable devices by nature are collecting information about the user him- or herself. Motion data, localization information or vital signs are of importance, just to mention a few. If online feedback is required a novel interaction channel for embedded devices has to be developed. Although several techniques like head-up displays are available the acceptance of those components is often very low. Research topics include therefore non-intrusive communication channels for immediate real-time feedback, such as haptic feedback via tactile actuators distributed over the body or audio feedback.

Due to the large amount of data and the resulting information from the data analysis steps special focus has to be laid on usability, interaction design and context-aware interfaces. In contrast to desktop applications more focus on multimodal interfaces is required.

Applications of wearable technologies are extremely wide spread. They range from very simple information for consumer market devices till long-term monitoring for professional users. The demand for specialized applications and also specialized wearable system design is high. Classical separation of application methods can be realized using the field of usage: Entertainment, industry, healthcare, sports and science are just some relevant areas with specific needs.

Application development and analysis for mobile wearable technology has to focus on the evaluation of user requirements and capabilities as well as the optimal adaption to specific needs. Careful design of those applications and related concepts has to be done.

Current Development Topics

Research topics already addressed in the competence center include the development of user monitoring applications with distributed heterogeneous sensor systems, data collection and analysis as well as interaction components. Selected topics are

  • On-Body data analysis for interactive real-time feedback (physical exercises, ergonomics, workflow assistance)
  • Activity recognition and motion analysis
  • Novel sensing concepts
  • Online and offline visualization of captured data
  • Development of integrated smart textiles
  • Power consumption optimized hardware and software development
  • High precision body motion tracking algorithms and applications
  • Indoor localization systems for position estimation
  • Integration of various sensor types (EEG, EMG, Inertial, Visual, Capacitive)
  • Emotion and stress estimation


Head: Prof. Dr. Paul Lukowicz and Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost


German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, DFKI GmbH
Prof. Dr. Paul Lukowicz
Research Department Embedded Intelligence
Trippstadter Strasse 122
D-67663 Kaiserslautern
Phone: +49 (0)631 / 205 75-4000
eMail: Paul.Lukowicz@dfki.de 

Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost
Design Research Lab, Berlin University of the Arts
Einsteinufer 43
D-10587 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30 / 8353-58341
eMail: info@drlab.org