Research Highlights

In General Psychology: Cognition and Social Psychology: Media and Communication, an internationally regarded study analysed whether people have empathy for robots. The test persons were shown different scenes in which people and robots were either treated well or badly. The test persons’ reactions were measured directly and objectively using functional magnetic resonance imaging. It was shown that the test persons reacted to robots with similar empathy as to people, ­although scenes of violence involving real people made a stronger impression than those showing violence towards robots. The researchers were nevertheless able to confirm overall that people react with empathy towards artificial beings. This work is crucially important as robots become more a part of our everyday environment, since it shows that the empathetic reaction of people towards them must also be taken into ­account. 

In High Performance Computing, new methods have been developed to rapidly visualise extremely large volumes of data. MRI or CT procedures ­generate huge amounts of very high resolution data, which must be evaluated on screen. Because computing speed is not increasing in pace with data resolution, it has become essential to find new and more efficient visualisation methods. The Figure above shows the “Visible Human”, ­an extremely large data set composed of many individual images depicting the human body in thin “slices”. It was used to create a 3D model so that the body can be rotated spatially, sections enlarged and the 3D model cut through for fast visualisation of muscles, bones and organs inside the body.

The Distributed Systems team have investigated the security of the Domain Name System (DNS). This is the system that permits names like ­ to be translated into IP addres­ses. If users have the wrong IP address, malicious users can show them fake websites in an attempt to intercept sensitive input (particularly passwords). The same technologies are also used by state ­institutions to censor undesirable websites. ­Using new measurement methods, the researchers were able to show how China and Iran in particu­lar use this weak spot to block media such as Facebook in their national networks.