Körber-Prize 2019
15/24

A Schölkopf team is working on a table tennis robot, which continuously improves its playing proficiency as a result of imitation and training. One day it should be able to hold its own against human players.

There are even several Schölkopf teams working in this new field of research on reinforcement learning. In the basement of the Tübingen Institute there is a table tennis table with two robotic arms. Initially the arms cannot do more that hold the paddles. They have no idea how to play table tennis, but are supposed to learn this on their own by the trial-and-error method. »We will feed it with learning software that enables them to learn from their own mistakes and to draw the right conclusions,« Schölkopf says. »Then they can practice all night, and the next morning they will already play much better.« The team hopes that the table tennis robot will one day be so powerful that it can beat human players.


AS AN AI LOCATION, GERMANY HAS TO PROVE ITSELF AGAINST TOUGH COMPETITION FROM THE USA AND CHINA

Thanks to the rapid advances, AI has also gained sig­nif­icantly in economic relevance in the last few years. ­»Researchers here are very concerned that countries such as China and the USA invest more in AI and put much more emphasis on strategic thinking,« Schölkopf says. ­He is actively involved in strengthening Germany as a location for AI and helping it achieve a top position de­spite the stiff international competition in AI. Schölkopf is a cofounder of the Cyber Valley in the Stuttgart–Tübingen region of Germany. This is a competence center supported by the state of Baden-Württemberg which has managed to enroll large IT companies from the USA in addition to German technology corporations and which has already attained worldwide renown.



Cyber Valley is one of the largest research cooperations in Europe in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) with partners from politics, science, business and society.