The socSMCs Consortium

University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (Coordinator), Hamburg, Germany


  • dynamics of neuronal populations
  • in-vivo multi-elctrode recordings from humans, carnivores, and rodents
  • EEG and MEG recordings in humans
  • bio-inspired robotics, computer vision

The research activities of Prof. Engel’s group focus on cognitive and sensorimotor functions, which are studied in humans and animal models using neurophysiological and neuroimaging techniques. Prof. Engel is one of the leading proponents of the so-called “temporal correlation model” of neural coding, which predicts that synchrony of neural signals may serve to coordinate the activity of large populations of neurons for the implementation of complex perceptual and cognitive processes. Over the last 20 years, Prof. Engel and his coworkers have made key contributions to the experimental validation of this model. The group is addressing the neural mechanisms underlying perceptual integration, sensorimotor integration, multisensory interactions, attentional control, response selection, perceptual decision making, agency, social cognition and awareness. Research of the group also focusses on the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and autism. Moreover, the work of Prof. Engel’s group aims at establishing strong interdisciplinary links between neurophysiology, neuroimaging and technical applications (neuroprosthetics, brain-computer-interfaces, robotics), which have successfully been established already as part of several EU-funded IST projects (Amouse, POP, eSMCs, socSMCs) and networks (Neuro-IT, euCognition, euCogII, euCogIII).


Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain

  • Psychology
  • Computational Neuroscience
  • Neuro-Robotics

Universität Osnabrück, Osnabrück, Germany


  • Neurophysiological basis of cognitive functions
  • Experimental and theoretical approaches to study sensory processing and sensory motor integration in the mammalian cortex under natural conditions
  • Role of top-down signals and their relation to fast dynamics
  • Learning and plasticity in neuronal networks
  • Leverage to real-world applications 

The research of Peter König’s group focuses on multisensory integration and sensorimotor coupling. Embracing an enactivist point of view, the cognition is understood as a skillful activity that involves ongoing interaction with the external world. Accordingly, cognitive processes and their underlying neural activity patterns should be studied primarily with respect to their role in natural action generation. The spectrum of methods includes psychophysical/behavioral, physiological and computational techniques. Importantly, these techniques are combined and utilized in a natural context, to study the relation of action and perception.

A prominent example of his enactivist approach is Peter König’s work on sensory augmentation. He developed the feelSpace belt that introduces a new contingency of changes in sensory information on own action. That is, it establishes a new relation of changes in a tactile signal around the waist contingent on changes in orientation in space. Assuming life long neural plasticity and the ability to learn and master such a new sensorimotor contingency, the enactivist concept was tested in a series of experiments. These included behavioral, EEG, fMRI, and measurements of subjective perception.
Peter König’s academic career started studying Physics (diploma) and Medicine (MD) at the University of Bonn. Subsequently he joined the lab of Prof. Dr. Wolf Singer’s at the MPI for Brain Research. In that time he graduated in Medicine (Dr.) at the University of Würzburg. Peter König then moved abroad for a total of nine years, first working with Prof. Gerald Edelman (Neurosciences Institute, San Diego) and then with Prof. Dr. Kevan Martin and Prof. Dr. Rodney Douglas (Institute for Neuroinformatics, ETH/UZ Zurich). Peter König accepted an offer to the newly established chair of Neurobiopsychology at the Institute of Cognitive Science (University of Osnabrück).
Over the last 20 years, Prof. König and his coworkers have made key contributions to the field at the intersection of cognitive science, neuroscience and computational neuroscience. These resulted in more than 160 publications in international peer-reviewed journals and 16.000 citations. His work has brought about 2 spin-off companies: „WhiteMatter Labs GmbH“ (2009) and the „feelSpace GmbH“ (2015).

Kungliga Tekniska Hoegskolan, Stockholm, Sweden


  • visuo-motor coordination of grasping in robots
  • integration of visual information and haptic feedback
  • attention systems and vision based segmentation

Danica Kragic is a Professor at the School of Computer Science and Communication at the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH. She received MSc in Mechanical Engineering from the Technical University of Rijeka, Croatia in 1995 and PhD in Computer Science from KTH in 2001. She has been a visiting researcher at Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University and INRIA Rennes. She is the Director of the Centre for Autonomous Systems. Danica received the 2007 IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Academic Career Award. She is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and Young Academy of Sweden. She holds a Honorary Doctorate from the Lappeenranta University of Technology. She chaired IEEE RAS Technical Committee on Computer and Robot Vision and served as an IEEE RAS AdCom member.  In 2012, she received an ERC Starting Grant. Her research is supported by the EU, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research and Swedish Research Council.

Her research explores how topological representations can be used for an integrated approach toward i) vision based understanding of complex human hand motion, ii) mapping and control of robotics hands based on the extracted knowledge, and iii) integrating the topological representations with models for high-level task encoding and task level planning. This research opens for new and important areas scientifically and technologically. Scientifically, it pushes for new way of thinking in an area that has traditionally been born from mechanics an modelling of bodies but not seeking for optimal design. Technologically, it provides methods plausible for evaluation of new designs of robotic and prosthetic hands. Further development of machine learning and computer vision methods allow for scene understanding that goes beyond the assumption of worlds of rigid bodies, including articulated and flexible objects.

One of just finished projects, RECONFIG:  Cognitive, Decentralized Coordination of Heterogeneous Multi-Robot Systems via Reconfigurable Task Planning aimed at exploiting recent developments in vision, robotics, and control to tackle coordination in heterogeneous multi-robot systems. Such systems hold promise for achieving robustness by leveraging upon the complementary capabilities of different agents and efficiency by allowing sub-tasks to be completed by the most suitable agent. A key challenge is that agent composition in current multi-robot systems needs to be constant and pre-defined. Moreover, the coordination of heterogeneous multi-agent systems has not been considered in manipulative scenarios. We proposed a reconfigurable and adaptive decentralized coordination framework for heterogeneous multiple and multi-DOF robot systems.

Leibniz Universität Hannover, Hannover, Germany

PI: Alfred O. Effenberg

  • Institute of Sports Sceince

Alfred Effenberg is professor and head of the Science in Motion Research Group at the Leibniz University Hannover since 2007.

After his PhD in Sport Science from the University of Hamburg he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bonn and a visiting researcher at UCLA with Prof. Richard A. Schmidt with successfully finishing his postdoctoral lecture qualification in 2002 at the University of Bonn. He has published more than 100 papers - including 32 in peer-reviewed journals and conferences - as well as book chapters and books and one edited book. He organized the international dvs-conference "Multisensory Motor Behavior: Impact of Sound", 2013, Hannover, Germany together with ETH/Zurich. He received grants from the University of Hamburg and the German Academic Exchange Service and is holder of the Dissertation Contest Award of the University of Hamburg (1. Place) as well as of the Karl-Hofman-Publication Contest (1. Place) and the Award of the German Olympic Sports Condereration (2. Place). He was member in several national and international conference committees and is member of the Central Ethic Committee of the Leibniz University Hanover and board member of the Centre for Systems Neuroscience, Hannover with review experience for several national and international journals, DAAD, DFG & EU 7. Framework Programme & Horizon 2020 FETPROACT. He developed the movement sonification approach (Effenberg 1996; 2004; 2005; Effenberg et al. 2011; 2015) and combined behavioral and neuroscientific research methods (Scheef et al. 2009; Schmitz et al. 2013; 2014; Effenberg 2016) to develop new intervention methods to support motor perception, control and learning in the fields of motor rehabilitation, writing acquisition, sports and multi-agent interaction with current research projects of BMBF, BMWi and EU HORIZON 2020.

WhiteMatter Labs GmbH, Berlin, Germany

PI: Fabian Stelzer
  • CEO

University of Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

PI: Daniel Polani

  • Head of the SEPIA (Sensor Evolution, Processing, Information and Actuation) Unit
  • School of Computer Science, University of Hertfordshire


  • Artificial Life and origins of intelligent behaviour
  • information-theoretic principles of perception, cognition and action
  • intrinsic motivation and self-organized structuring of behaviour
  • informational characterization of causal and acausal dynamics, embodiment, individual and collective dynamics, self-organization and emergence

Daniel Polani is Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the School of Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire, UK. He obtained his PhD in 1996 from the Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz, Germany. He was Research Fellow at the Institute for Neuro- and Bioinformatics at the University of Lübeck, Germany, and Visiting Researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences and the Santa Fe Institute. He has been on the Board of Trustees of the RoboCup Federation for the cadence 2008-2014, Senior Program Committee Member of conferences such as IJCAI, AAMAS, and AAAI. He has organized workshops including the FP7 TRUCE-funded IDeM (Information and Decision-Making) workshop, a workshop on information-theoretic incentives for artificial life at the Artificial Life conference or a mini-symposium and workshops on principled theoretical frameworks for the perception-action cycle at the NIPS (Neural Information Processing Systems) conference. He is editor of the JAAMAS journal, associate editor of Advances in Complex Systems and of Frontiers in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (Computational Intelligence section), and has served as Guest Associate Editor for PLoS Comp. Biol.

His research focuses on understanding information-theoretic constraints on cognitive processing and action selection and how such processes can emerge from first principles. Any task is subject to various informational constraints. Together with constraints dictated by the make-up of the agent itself, whether biological or artificial, this suggests informationally preferrable ways for agents to interact with their environment, and permits the general quantitative analysis and characterization of the perception-action loop and embodiment via their informational signature on the one side, and the construction of informationally preferred processes for the organization of decision-making, and production of intrinsically driven, emergent behaviours on the other side. The aim is to gain a more fundamental understanding about plausible pathways for the emergence and organization of cognitive and sensorimotor processes in biology through fundamental constraints of physics and the environment on the one side; and to use this understanding to create more flexible, generic and adaptive robotic devices and more natural interactions between humans and robots on the other side.

In the completed FP7 project CORBYS, one goal was to develop a generic cognitive architecture for robot systems; here, amongst other, informational methods were developed to provide a natural route for generic behaviour generation for robots, driven purely by the properties of the sensorimotor loop via the "empowerment" principle. This principle aims at optimizing the informational impedance match of the sensorimotor loop to the agent's environmental "niche", thereby producing "natural" agent behaviours in underspecified situations. In the currently running Horizon 2020 WiMUST project, related principles are employed to address the challenge of managing multivehicle robotic submarine swarms in a robust and flexible way.

PAL Robotics SL, Barcelona, Spain

PI: Francesco Ferro

  • CEO

Francesco Ferro obtained a BSc degree in Telecommunications Engineering in 2002 at the Politecnico di Torino. He began a PhD in Computer Vision but left it in 2004 to attend a robotics humanoid project.

He  started  the development  of  stereo  vision  algorithms  and  later  he joined the autonomous robot navigation team to implement various SLAM algorithms. In 2008 he became the manager of the  software department of PAL. He obtained an MBA at the UB University  in  Barcelona  in  2011.  Since the  beginning  of  2011  he  is  the  CEO  of  PAL Robotics, in charge of REEM's humanoids robots development.