Nico Schmidt

Nico Schmidt, M.Sc.

PhD Student

Phone: +41 (0) 44 63 54563


Research Interests

I work with the EU-Project "Extending Sensorimotor Contingencies to Cognition" ( The project pursues the idea of active perception: by actively interacting with the world and thereby generating sensory information, humans and animals can learn the regularities (sensorimotor contingencies) in the information flows which are structured by their embodiment: the morphology and physical properties of the body as well as the kind and placement of their sensors. Adopting this concept in robotics research is a promising path towards robots that are capable to deal with highly uncertain environments and therefore are more efficient in solving real-life tasks. I use this concept as a premise for my research which includes the following topics:

  • developmental robotics: Robots that learn in an incremental fashion. By starting with random motor actions the robot is exploring its capabilities, generating its own sensory input from which it can bootstrap the sensorimotor contingencies.
  • information theory: by quantifying the amount of information that is contained in sensory channels, that one channel contains about another channel, or that flows from one channel to another, the robot can identify its sensorimotor network without any prior knowledge.
  • reinforcement learning: while exploring the world and the own body, a robot tries to optimize a value system in order to achieve desired tasks (specified by the experimenter).
  • learning machines such as reservoir computing, continuous-time neural networks or gaussian prosesses: to learn the consequences of its own actions, the robot can use biologically inspired machine learning methods, e.g. artificial neural networks that extract relevant features or that learn forward and nverse internal models of the robot.

Other research interests includes EEG-based brain-computer interfaces as well as models of human perception on behavioral and neuronal levels.


Journal Articles:

  • Wilming N., Harst S., Schmidt N.M., König P. (2013) "Saccadic Momentum and Facilitation of Return Saccades Contribute to an Optimal Foraging Strategy." PLoS Comput Biol 9(1): e1002871. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002871
  • N.M. Schmidt, M. Hoffmann, K. Nakajima, R. Pfeifer (2012) "Bootstrapping perception using information theory: case studies in a quadruped robot running on different grounds." Advances in Complex Systems, doi:10.1142/S0219525912500786 (pdf)
  • N.M. Schmidt, B. Blankertz, M.S. Treder (2012) "Online detection of error-related potentials boosts the performance of mental typewriters." BMC Neuroscience, 13:19, 2012, doi:10.1186/1471-2202-13-19
  • M.S. Treder, N.M. Schmidt, B. Blankertz. (2011) “Gaze-independent brain-computer interfaces based on covert attention and feature attention.” J Neural Eng, 8:6, 2011, doi:10.1088/1741-2560/8/6/066003
  • M.S. Treder, A. Bahramisharif, N.M. Schmidt, M.A.J. van Gerven, B. Blankertz. (2011) “Posterior alpha modulation induced by covert attention shifts as an input modality for gaze-independent EEG-based brain-computer interfaces.” J Neuroeng Rehabil, 8:24, 2011, doi:10.1186/1743-0003-8-24

Conference Papers:

  • N.M. Schmidt, M. Baumgartner, R. Pfeifer (2014) "Actor-Critic Design using Echo State Networks in a Simulated Quadruped Robot." IEEE/RJS International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), September 14-18, Chicago, USA. (pdf)
  • M. Hoffmann, N.M. Schmidt, R. Pfeifer, A.K. Engel, A. Maye (2012) "Using Sensorimotor Contingencies for Terrain Discrimination and Adaptive Walking Behavior in the Quadruped Robot Puppy." From Animals to Animats 12, 12th International Conference on Simulation of Adaptive Behavior, SAB 2012, Odense, Denmark, doi:10.1007/978-3-642-33093-3_6 (pdf)
  • G. Kootstra, N. Wilming, N.M. Schmidt, M. Djurfeldt, D. Kragic, P. König (2012) "Learning and Adaptation of Sensorimotor Contingencies: Prism-Adaptation, a Case Study." From Animals to Animats 12, 12th International Conference on Simulation of Adaptive Behavior, SAB 2012, Odense, Denmark, doi:10.1007/978-3-642-33093-3_34 (pdf)
  • Hoffmann, M., Schmidt, N., Nakajima, K., Iida, F., and Pfeifer, R. (2011). "Perception, motor learning, and speed adaptation exploiting body dynamics: Case studies in a quadruped robot." Proceedings of the 5th International Symposium on Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines, AMAM 2011, 11-14 October 2011, Hyogo, Japan, 39-40 (pdf)
  • N.M. Schmidt, B. Blankertz, M.S. Treder. (2011) "Online Detection of Error-Related Potentials Boosts the Communication Speed of Visual Spellers." Proceedings of the 2011 5th International Brain-Computer Interface Conference, Graz, Austria (pdf)
  • B. Blankertz, N.M. Schmidt, M.S. Treder. (2010) "Gaze-independent BCI spellers based on covert attention and feature attention." 3rd International Symposium on Applied Sciences in Biomedical and Communication Technologies, ISABEL2010, Rome, Italy, doi:10.1109/ISABEL.2010.5702885
  • N.M. Schmidt, B. Blankertz, M.S. Treder. (2010) "Alpha-modulation induced by covert attention shifts as a new input modality for EEG-based BCIs". Proceedings of the 2010 IEEE Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Istanbul, Turkey, doi:10.1109/ICSMC.2010.5641967 (pdf)

Abstracts, Posters, Workshops:

  • N.M. Schmidt, M.Hoffmann, K. Nakajima. (2012) "Information flow in a quadruped running robot quantified by transfer entropy". Poster presented at the 5th International Conference on Cognitive Systems , CogSys 2012, Vienna, Austria. (pdf)
  • N.M. Schmidt, B. Blankertz, M.S. Treder. (2010) "Alpha-modulation induced by covert attention shifts as a new input modality for EEG-based BCIs". Poster presented at the Bernstein Conference on Computational Neuroscience, BCCN 2010, Berlin, Germany. doi:10.3389/conf.fncom.2010.51.00109 (pdf)

Master's Thesis:

  • "Detection of Error-Related Potentials for Increasing the Communication Rate of Brain-Computer Interfaces", supervisors: Prof K.-R. Müller, Prof. G. Curio, Dr. M.S. Treder, Dr. B. Blankertz, Master's thesis at TU-Berlin, Machine Learning Laboratory (2011) (pdf)