The University of Freiburg is getting a new building for its cutting edge research on the Faculty of Engineering campus: Edith Sitzmann, Minister of Finance in Baden-Württemberg has laid the foundation stone for the Freiburg "Institute for Machine-Brain Interfacing Technology" (IMBIT) - the grand opening has been set for the end of 2019. "Intelligent interfacing between machines and the human brain have the potential to greatly increase the quality of life for people with paralysis or brain and neurological diseases. The Cluster of Excellence BrainLinks-BrainTools has provided this research with great global visibility by posing completely new questions and strengthening the University of Freiburg's technical-scientific profile. I am convinced that the IMBIT will offer our researchers optimal conditions and a strong basis for establishing BrainLinks-BrainTools as a central research area at our University," says Rector Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer.
The research focus of machine-brain interfacing technology aims to develop neurotechnological applications for patients with paralysis or with insufficiently treatable brain and neurological diseases such as Parkinson's. Robotic assistance systems would be one example: Users are able to mentally control a mobile robot and give it instructions to bring them a water bottle. These types of developments require contributions from a variety of fields: neurobiology and material sciences provide the basis; researchers from computer science, robotics and microsystems engineering develop the systems; and medical professionals put them into practice. "As virtually the only location in the world, we are fortunate enough to have combined the entire expertise of a single university and can operate as a team as an already well-oiled machine. I am optimistic that we will make great advancements in the future in the research area of intelligent man-machine interfacing technology," emphasizes the computer scientist Prof. Dr. Wolfram Burgard, spokesperson for BrainLinks-BrainTools.
The new center offers researchers a highly specialized infrastructure across 3,200 square meters: along with labs, several of which will contain very large machines, a robot hall and specially shielded rooms for EEG experiments will be included. The IMBIT is intended to strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration across numerous faculties. "The researchers will be in close proximity to one another, allowing for informal exchanges while stimulating creativity," says Burgard, describing the basic concept behind the building. In addition, for this future-oriented topic, it is important to promote the exchange with non-university target groups. For this purpose, the IMBIT will have a meeting room that will allow for participatory formats. The total construction costs amount to approximately 31.5 million euros.