General information about the research focus

Psychonics is a new, innovative and interdisciplinary scientific discipline. Its subject is the transfer of findings from scientifically oriented psychology to technical systems. The transfer of laws of perception, motivation, cognition, learning and behavioral psychology to technical systems enables the construction of devices whose function-bound mechanics are extended by psychological interpretation and control processes.

Psychonics has close points of contact with classical bionics and "artificial intelligence research". While in bionics insights from biology are used to optimize mechanical design principles, "artificial intelligence research" provides algorithms for cognitive processes that enable the autonomous control of machines through appropriate software. Its main area of application is in the field of robotics. In contrast, psychonics attempts to equip individual technical systems with specifically function-bound psychological control and interpretation processes. Interpretation processes refer to the fact that the interaction between humans and machines is extended by the aspect of interpreting human behavior. Machines thus become not only "command receivers" that respond to commands in a constant manner, but systems that behave in a "context-adaptive" and semi-autonomous manner. For example, by implementing emotion interpreters, vehicles can detect the emotional state of the driver and put safety systems on alert when necessary, such as when the driver is overtired. Conversely, by conveying emotionally colored feedback, vehicles can signal to the driver that he or she is operating the vehicle in a sustainable manner, i.e. in a way that protects the environment and materials, for example.


Structure of the research focus, subprojects and development goals

Since the integration of emotional processes into technical systems is particularly characteristic of the psychonics way of thinking, a substantial part of the research activities relates to this area.

A first substantive focus is in the area of emotion recognition and emotion interpretation by technical systems (subproject 1). Here, the focus is on psychological findings and methods for emotion recognition and classification (psychology) as well as on algorithms for the automatic recognition of emotions (computer science). Research goals are the development of a facial expression scanner that allows the automatic determination of emotions, as well as the development of a speech parameter analyzer that allows inferences about the emotional state of a person from characteristics of linguistic expression.

The second substantive focus deals with the recognition and interpretation of the emotions of vehicle drivers as well as the control of vehicles through the automatic (psychological) interpretation of information from sources outside and inside the vehicle (subprojects 2 and 3).

Data about the driving situation include information related to the traffic environment. A key aspect here is the position of one's own vehicle in relation to other vehicles in the traffic stream and the associated distance regulation. In a further focal point, an attempt is being made to develop a camera-based system of distance regulation (subproject 4).

A fourth substantive focus deals with the question of how machines can communicate their states particularly effectively to the operator/operator. The focus here is on emotionally colored feedback. It is known from psychological research that emotionally charged information on the one hand leads to increased attention and on the other hand is better retained. Here, models are developed that translate the operating states of machines into emotions. Here it is necessary to investigate how this emotionally tinged information must look so that it (still) meets with acceptance by the operator (subproject 5).

Speaker of the research focus

  • Prof. Dr. Rainer Höger

Cooperation partner

Volkswagen AG, Wolfsburg, Group Research

ADAC Driving Safety Center Lüneburg