ICDL2022 Tutorial Proposal: Rhythm in Development and Learning – Similarities and Differences Between Humans and Technology


Jim Torresen, Senior member IEEE


Abstract/Main Concept Rhythm is an essential biological mechanism from our very first heartbeats and expands through motor activity when we learn to crawl and walk. Technology similarly much depends on synchronous rhythmic operation, whether in a computer or in a robot. This tutorial will introduce how rhythm is essential both in humans and in technology. There are similarities as well as differences that we will shed light on. Technology researchers have potentially not explored all opportunities for how humans apply and take benefit from rhythm in development and learning which will also be addressed in the tutorial.



A.    Duration

Half day and face-to-face if few travel restrictions but is also open for hybrid or entirely virtual, if necessary.

B.    Target audience

The tutorial will give the audience insight into the rhythmic phenomena in humans as well as in technology, with an emphasis on how we take benefit from it as a part of development and learning. Thus, we think the content of the tutorial can be inspiring and bring new insight to many of the ICDL attendees. The tutorial will be given at an introductory level. Thus, there is no specific prerequisite knowledge required.

C.    List of speakers

The author of the proposal: Jim Torresen, Department of Informatics and RITMO Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time and Motion, University of Oslo, Norway and potentially one or two additional invited speakers (will be added to the tutorial web page).

D.    Open to paper/poster submission

We don´t plan with any paper/poster session since the format is tutorial.

E.    Website link


II.    CONCEPT (Tutorial Content)

Human life depends on balancing between regular behaviour and breaking out of too repetitive patterns. We need to sleep, eat and be physically active at regular intervals. However, people vary in how structured these activities are performed and how much they vary in regularity. That is, their point in time during a day and how long they last depend on each person.

Similarly important, life requires our biological body to function with our heart and brain as two of the main organs keeping us going. Oxygen is received through our lungs and supplied to our body. This is with the help of our blood being driven through our body by the power of regular heartbeats in our blood supply and return chain of vessels. This is referred to as pulse and for an adult, the normal range of the heart rate is between 60 to 100 beats per minute. Similarly, we are able to think and remember with the help of neurons in our brain, activating each other as a response to inputs from our senses like eyes and ears. Our brain represents our central nervous system, where neural oscillations take place.

Rhythms exist in a large span of temporal scales from ultradian rhythm (less than 24 hours, all from rhythms that occur within seconds to several hours), circadian rhythm (24 hours) and infradian rhythms (more than 24 hours, can be as long as months and years) [1]. They don´t fully operate independently of each other. Entrainment may happen when there are synchronisation and locking between independently oscillating systems [2].

The underlying fundamental concept of all these biological functions is a repetitive mechanism that we call rhythm. In this tutorial, we will look at how rhythm is an essential part of all biological systems and their interaction within nature and with technology. Technology would, similarly to biology, not be able to function very well without the concept of rhythmic operation – often referred to as synchronous behaviour. Thus, rhythm in technology is also a topic of the tutorial.

Rhythm in technology impacts technology users in many ways. We have gradually got more dependent on technology which keeps us updated with plans for the day and potentially collects information about us like the number of steps walked in a day. Thus, rhythmic behaviour in technology has in many ways changed the way we live our lives. Technology is also about generating motion through robots and haptic interfaces, giving the user physical feedback. A repetitive pulse–or clock signal–is the backbone of most technology today in contrast to humans having asynchronous processing in our brains and when coordinating our body parts. Technology has also changed a lot the way we communicate. The invention of electricity quickly led to Samuel Morse in 1838 invented the Morse system used to communicate through an electrical telegraph. This was the start of a technology revolution that has led to today´s broadband networks through cable and wireless communication.

Robots are equipped with motors rather than muscles, but their activation takes benefit from having a regular activation pattern. We are mostly used to robots being applied in manufacturing where they, to a large extent, can be pre-programmed to their dedicated task. There is normally no need to change their behaviour unless they are going to change their assigned task. However, after a first wave of shrinking smartphone technology getting close to us, we now see a second wave with robots approaching. These have to operate in unstructured and dynamic environments and need to be able to do a large number of different tasks. They need to interact with humans having different behaviour patterns. Thus, rhythm and synchronisation at different scales both during training and operation will be important capabilities. One human mechanism that is explored in robots is central pattern generators (CPGs), i.e. neural circuits capable of producing coordinated patterns of high-dimensional rhythmic output signals while receiving only simple, low-dimensional, input signals [3].

This tutorial will give insight into how rhythm is an essential backbone in both humans and technology and how rhythm is similarly diverse and important in technology interaction with users. There are similarities as well as differences in how rhythm is a part of biology compared to how it is applied in technology which will be addressed in the tutorial. The tutorial will also be illustrated with examples from others and own relevant work.

III.    A brief resume of the presenter


Name: Jim Torresen


Postal address:

PO Box 1080 Blindern,     N-0316 Oslo, Norway


Phone numbers: +4722852454 (office) +4792846669 (mobile)


E-mail address: jimtoer@ifi.uio.no


Jim Torresen is a professor at University of Oslo where he leads the Robotics and Intelligent Systems research group. He received his M.Sc. and Dr.ing. (Ph.D) degrees in computer architecture and design from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Univ. of Trondheim in 1991 and 1996, respectively. He has been employed as a senior hardware designer at NERA Telecommunications (1996-1998) and at Navia Aviation (1998-1999). Since 1999, he has been a professor at the Department of Informatics at the Univ. of Oslo (associate professor 1999-2005). Jim Torresen has been a visiting researcher at Kyoto University, Japan for one year (1993-1994), four months at Electrotechnical laboratory (now AIST), Tsukuba, Japan (1997 and 2000) and a visiting professor at Cornell University, USA for one year (2010-2011).


His research interests at the moment include artificial intelligence, ethical aspects of AI and robotics, machine learning, robotics, and applying this to complex real-world applications. Several novel methods have been proposed. He has published over 250 scientific papers in international journals, books and conference proceedings. A large number tutorials and a number of invited talks have been given at international conferences and research institutes. He is in the program committee of more than ten different international conferences, associate editor of three international scientific journals as well as a regular reviewer of a number of other international journals. He has also acted as an evaluator for proposals in EU FP7 and Horizon2020 and is currently project manager/principal investigator in three externally funded research projects/centres. He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences (NTVA) and the National Committee for Research Ethics in Science and Technology (NENT) where he is a member of a working group on research ethics for AI. More information and a list of publications can be found here: http://jimtoer.no/


Evidence of teaching experience

Torresen has extensive experience in university course teaching, see overview in CV here and an overview of past invited talks and tutorials here.


Evidence of knowledge in the area

See a list of research projects here. Torresen is a Principal Investigator of the RITMO Centre of Excellence for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time and Motion


Information about previous tutorials delivered by the presenters

See an overview of past invited talks and tutorials here.


This work is partially supported by The Research Council of Norway as a part of the Collaboration on Intelligent Machines (COINMAC) project, under grant agreement 309869, Vulnerability in the Robot Society (VIROS) under grant agreement 288285, Predictive and Intuitive Robot Companion (PIRC) under grant agreement 312333 and through its Centres of Excellence scheme, RITMO with project No. 262762.


[1]    Haken, H., Koepchen, H.P. (Eds.), 1991. Rhythms in Physiological Systems: Proceedings of the International Symposium at Schloß Elmau, Bavaria, October 22–25, 1990, Springer Series in Synergetics. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-468 76877-4  

[2]    Ross, Jessica M., and Ramesh Balasubramaniam. “Physical and neural entrainment to rhythm: human sensorimotor coordination across tasks and effector systems.” Frontiers in human neuroscience vol. 8 576. 1 Aug. 2014, https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00576

[3]    Auke Jan Ijspeert, Central pattern generators for locomotion control in animals and robots: A review, Neural Networks, Volume 21, Issue 4, 2008, Pages 642-653, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neunet.2008.03.014.

[4]    Laje, R., Agostino, P.V., Golombek, D.A., 2018. The Times of Our Lives: Interaction Among Different Biological Periodicities. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 12, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnint.2018.00010   


J. Torresen is with the Department of Informatics and RITMO Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time and Motion, University of Oslo, Norway; e-mail: jimtoer@ifi.uio.no; phone +4722852454.