Navigating an avatar underground: exchange programme between MIT and TU Freiberg

an avatar in a mine
Young researchers from Cambridge, USA and Freiberg have explored the research and teaching mine with an avatar. Now they are investigating at MIT how artificial intelligence can use the data to identify possible zones of weakness in the rocks.

When robots and avatars venture underground into impassable areas instead of humans, the great potential for smart, safe and efficient exploration becomes apparent. "In order to bring this potential to life in an interdisciplinary way using a concrete example, we have launched the "Smart Underground Space Exploration and Analysis" project for young researchers from TU Bergakademie Freiberg and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)," says Prof. Christoph Butscher, one of the initiators of the project.

 "Exciting interplay of computer science and geotechnics"

Participants visiting the CAVE-Virtual-Reality.In June, the group spent four weeks in Freiberg surveying the Reiche Zeche research and teaching mine. The cooperation resulted in 3D scans and multispectral images of the underground tunnels. At the Institute of Computer Science, the survey data was visualised three-dimensionally in the Virtual Reality CAVE, so that the doctoral students could enter the tunnels virtually afterwards. With so-called game engines, the underground passages were finally made accessible to avatars. A game engine enables the virtual walk-through on a PC or with virtual reality glasses and controls the avatar.

The young researchers are now taking this data to the U.S. for a return visit. At MIT, they are applying image analysis methods to further research the visualizations. Thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence, the young researchers hope to identify potential weaknesses in the mine infrastructure and derive possible safety measures.

Exchange programme supported by MIT

Freiberg Professors Christoph Butscher (Engineering Geology), Jörg Benndorf (Mine Surveying) and Bernhard Jung (Computer Science), together with their American colleague Prof. Herbert Einstein, successfully applied for the MIT-funded "International Science And Technology Initiative" exchange programme. A total of seven young researchers from both universities will benefit from the exchange programme thanks to the guest stays in the joint research project. "The initiative is also an opportunity to initiate new collaborations with one of the world's leading top universities and to explore concrete possibilities for cooperation with MIT in research and teaching," says Prof. Christoph Butscher.

Fragen beantwortet / Contact: 
Christoph Butscher,