© Bielefeld University


A Mirror that Knows Your Schedule and a Door that Knows the Bus Timetable

Published on 1. Juni 2016, 13:29 h
Bielefeld University welcomed the Federal Ministry of Education and Research to CITEC

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall…” The mirror of the future can answer questions, help out with brushing one’s teeth, or remind one of upcoming appointments. Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF), the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) at Bielefeld University is developing a “thinking” home entrance area equipped with a smart mirror and intelligent door as part of the Cluster of Innovation KogniHome. CITEC is working with 13 regional partners on this project. As the project is reaching its halfway point, representatives from the BMBF visited CITEC and the PIKSL Laboratory of the v. Bodelschwingh Bethel Foundation on 30 May 2016 to experience for themselves the technologies being developed for KogniHome.   

“In our everyday lives, mirrors are a minor thing that we tend to use without giving much thought. When it comes to developing an intelligent mirror, it is therefore important that it can also be used without much effort. The mirror can be operated intuitively using gestures, and is easily integrated into daily life,” says Dr. Thomas Hermann, who leads the Ambient Intelligence research group at CITEC and is developing the entrance area.   

KogniHome-Bewohner sehen im intelligenten Spiegel nicht nur ihr Spiegelbild, sondern auch Informationen zum Wetter und zu ihrem Terminkalender, wie hier Entwickler Alexander Neumann. Foto: Universität Bielefeld
Residents of KogniHome not only see their own reflection in the smart mirror, but also information on the weather and their personal schedule. Photo: CITEC/Bielefeld University

A Mirror Fit for Everyday Life
“The mirror has to be at the center, with its functions clustered around it.” Functionality of the mirror will include, for instance, an integrated personal schedule, or measuring a user’s pulse or breathing rate. In the future, the mirror will be able to measure both by recording changes in the color of the user’s face. “If when brushing one’s teeth, the user wonders what the weather is going to be like, or whether the train is running on time, the ‘mirror of the future’ can answer such questions. In addition to this, residents will be able to save themselves the time and trouble of actually having to try on different articles of clothing, and still be able to see themselves ‘wearing’ the different clothes in the mirror,” explains Dr. Hermann. The researchers are planning to make the technology able to directly display how different pants or sweaters would look: using built-in cameras, the mirror can already correct the color of the digital image in the mirror, allowing, for instance, people with vision problems that prevent them from correctly perceiving color to better see the different nuances of their clothing.

The mirror prototype consists of a mirrored surface, under which a flat screen is hidden. Two types of mirrors are planned for: one for the bathroom, and one for the entrance area. The smart mirror can be used just like any normal mirror, but with its cameras, it can also show different views, such as one’s back or the back of one’s head.
The smart apartment’s mirror is designed to be connected with people, but also with different devices. As such, the mirror in the entrance way will be linked directly to the closet and the smart front door. Together with CITEC, the family-run company Hettich is developing intelligent technology for furniture as part of the KogniHome project. Located in the Ostwestphalian town of Kirchlengern, Hettich is a major company involved in constructing closets that are compatible with the smart mirror, and are designed, for instance, to take the right jacket and hang it out for the user.

The Smart Front Door Will Soon Recognize Each Resident

“The door looks exactly like any other normal door: the challenge here was installing all the technical components in such a way that they are both functional, but at the same time well hidden,” explains Ralf Laux, Managing Director of DMW Schwarze, a company that develops door and gate systems with built-in sensors and actuators. The prototype of the door developed by DMW Schwarze and CITEC can accommodate different sensors that measure temperature, humidity, smoke, light, sound, approach, and movement. “The door reminds the user leaving the house, for example, of an appointment, or shows the next bus connection on a small display screen.” By the end of the project, the door will be able to do even more: it will also be able to recognize each resident by and through the Bluetooth signal from their mobile phone or smart watch. The door will also remind the last member of the family to leave the house for the day to turn off the lights or the oven.

How Are Data Privacy and Safety Guaranteed?
In addition to the technical aspects, the Cluster of Innovation KogniHome is also working on ELSI, a special interdisciplinary project on the ethical, legal, safety, and social considerations raised by the smart apartment. ELSI stands for “ethical, legal, and social implications.” “The smart door is not meant to dominate over anyone, and it will not be able to be programmed to block certain members of the family from entering or exiting,” says Dr. Hermann. “In addition to this, the residents’ privacy is safeguarded, even though the mirror has built-in cameras. Personal privacy is especially important for the family in places like the bathroom.” This is why the researchers are developing technological innovations that take into account all of the necessary legal and technical safety issues.

On 30 May 2016, Dr. Christine Thomas, who heads the sub-department “Innovation in Service of Society” (Innovation im Dienste der Gesellschaft) at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) visited CITEC, where she learned firsthand about the KogniHome developments and viewed other CITEC demonstration models. She also visited the PIKSL Laboratory of the v. Bodelschwingh Bethel Foundation. CITEC researchers demonstrated the KogniHome prototypes as well as other innovations for the smart home environment.

A total of 14 project partners from Ostwestfalen-Lippe are cooperating on the Cluster of Innovation KogniHome – a smart apartment that supports the health, quality of life, and safety of families, singles, and senior citizens. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the project with a total of 8 million Euro over a period of three years, through 2017. KogniHome is led by CITEC, the Cluster of Excellence at Bielefeld University.

More information is available online at:


Dr. Thomas Hermann, Bielefeld University
Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC)
Telephone: 0521 106-12140
Email: thermann@techfak.uni-bielefeld.de

Posted by NFrei1 in General

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