Important legal notice
   
Contact   |   Search   
RTD info logoMagazine on European Research N° 41 - May 2004   
Top
 HOME
 TABLE OF CONTENTS
 EDITORIAL
 Europeans’ political blues?
 Doubling European research investment
 Showcasing science
 The allergy enigma
 de Gennes – in perpetual motion
 A parliament in search of voters 
 COMMUNICATING SCIENCE
 IN BRIEF
 OPINION
 LETTERS
 PUBLICATIONS
 AGENDA
 CALLS FOR PROPOSALS

Download pdf de en fr


EXCELLENCE IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC
Title  Cybernetics pole at Charles University

Vladimir Mařík, an expert on artificial intelligence at Prague University, worked with only two researchers 13 years ago. Today, several dozen scientists are employed at his cybernetics laboratory. Soon, he will be expanding his team further to keep pace with international co-operation projects in partnership with industry and universities. 

Research on robotic vision sensors. Perception of distances calculated by computer on the basis of two images of a tree: the colours – red means ‘near’, dark blue means ‘far’ – represent distance.   CMP (Centre of Machine Perception), Department of Cybernetics, Charles University (Prague)  Research on robotic vision sensors. Perception of distances calculated by computer on the basis of two images of a tree: the colours – red means ‘near’, dark blue means ‘far’ – represent distance.    © CMP (Centre of Machine Perception), Department of Cybernetics, Charles University (Prague)
Research on robotic vision sensors. Perception of distances calculated by computer on the basis of two images of a tree: the colours – red means ‘near’, dark blue means ‘far’ – represent distance.
© CMP (Centre of Machine Perception ), Department of Cybernetics, Charles University (Prague)
Vladimir Mařík likes to illustrate his comments. On his laptop screen, he displays the slides presenting a series of partnerships: a common laboratory shared with the Johannes Kepler University in Linz (AT); an agreement for the continuous exchange of researchers with the University of Surrey (UK); co-operation with the Danish firm Grundfos which specialises in water pumps; the European Miracle(1) project, which holds conferences and seminars in the field of artificial intelligence – the most recent of which, in September 2003, was attended by Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. 'We participated in 15 contracts under the Fifth Framework Programme and are already involved in five others under the first call for proposals launched by the Sixth Framework Programme,' explains Mařík.  

A dual teaching/research engine
The department of cybernetics at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the prestigious Czech Technical University in Prague - which he heads - has certainly earned the Centre of Excellence label awarded to it by the European Commission. Yet, as recently as 1990, the department employed just two researchers. The change came in 1992, with the launch of the Doctoral School for Artificial Intelligence and Bio-cybernetics, which proved an immediate success. 'First research, and then teaching through research,' is Mařík's motto.

Since then, this influx of students has fuelled the laboratory's growth. In 1996, it split into two units: the Gerstner Laboratory devoted to artificial intelligence and the Centre for Artificial Perception which concentrates on visual recognition. Together they employ 18 lecturers, with 28 researchers and 47 students – their average age is 32. Its budget is €2.2 million, nearly three-quarters of which comes from contracts. English is the sole working language and recruitment is pan-European. 'I make sure there is always at least one foreign lecturer. Also, since the Bologna declaration(2), a term spent at Prague counts as credit for university courses elsewhere. This has encouraged students to come here from elsewhere in Europe, mainly Austria, but also Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.' 

The strength of software testing
When asked what he believes is the field of advanced research in which his department excels in the most, Mařík hesitates: 'Perhaps automatic systems for the detection of software errors.' A new series of images is promptly displayed to illustrate the point: first, in the medical field. The Gerstner Laboratory is particularly proud of having developed a software testing programme in co-operation with the Dutch company Vitatron Medical. A leader in the heart pacemaker sector, this company is currently using procedures developed at the Charles University to test its systems. 'This is a field where one cannot afford to make mistakes. Human lives are at stake.' Then there is the Czech company CertiCon, with its origins in the department, which employs a staff of 50 in developing forecasting algorithms for medical software testing. 

Modes of operation
Sony Aibo Robot: four-legged robot fitted with a programme for interaction with the environment.  © CMP
Sony Aibo Robot: four-legged robot fitted with a programme for interaction with the environment.
© CMP
But the know-how of Charles University's cyberneticians is not limited to health alone. Mařík's portable computer screen displays pictures taken at the heart of a pipeline, inspected by robots with artificial vision. These are followed by images of devices used to detect intrusion into US Air Force systems. 'We were contacted three days after the Czech Republic joined NATO,' he explains. A third slide shows the Berlin/Vienna high-speed rail link, whose switching control system for the Czech section of the line was developed here. 

More slides followed, all of them illustrating co-operative research projects involving big names from industry or prestigious universities. And the future? 'Our laboratory lacks space and will have to split into two within the next few years, if it is to expand further.'

(1) Machine Intelligence Research and Application Centre Learning Excellence
(2) After the European Research Area, a European higher education area was created by the Bologna declaration, in June 1999, favouring the equivalency of diplomas.


Printable version

Features 1 2 3 4 5 6
  An impressive restructuring
  The genes of a biocity
  Princeton on the Danube
  Medical research bounces back
  Cybernetics pole at Charles University
  The bridgehead of a technological revolution


  TO FIND OUT MORE  
 
  • Website of the Cybernetics Department
  •  

      CONTACTS  
     
  • Vladimir Marík 
    Charles Technical University,
    Faculty of Electrical Engineering,
    Department of Cybernetics
  •  


       
      Top
    Features 1 2 3 4 5 6

    TO FIND OUT MORE

    CONTACTS

    • Vladimir Marík 
      Charles Technical University,
      Faculty of Electrical Engineering,
      Department of Cybernetics