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Funded PhD position in variable autonomy Human-Robot systems in extreme environments

Project Description

Robotics systems used in time- and safety-critical domains (e.g. disaster response, nuclear decommissioning) are often remotely teleoperated, with little or no autonomy used to assist the human operator. This often compromises such systems as frequently the remote robot will be separated from its human operator by e.g. limiting communication bandwidth or communication failure. Additionally, controlling a remote robot to perform precise movements with respect to surrounding objects can be extremely difficult for human operators who only have limited situational awareness (e.g. poor depth perception using a robot-mounted camera) and can be sleep deprived, experiencing high workload and/or stress. It is expected from the PhD candidate to make a significant contribution towards the improvement of such Human-Robot systems (HRS) by addressing the use of variable autonomy (e.g. Mixed-Initiative, shared control) as an approach to blending the capabilities of humans and robots. A variable autonomy system is one in which control can be traded between a human operator and a robot by switching dynamically between different Levels of Autonomy (LOAs). LOAs can vary from the level of pure teleoperation, to the other extreme which is full autonomy. Such HRS can be improved in a variety of ways by: improving the HRI; improving the robot’s ability to regulate its own LOA; improving context understanding; improving robot’s understanding of the human operator; implementing novel interfaces; addressing conflict for control between the operator and the robot; implementing novel task specific abilities. A typical scenario involves the HRS conducing tasks such as: exploration (e.g. looking for victims); inspection (e.g. looking for potential hazards in an area or/and malfunctions in infrastructure); mobile manipulation (e.g. removing debris or manipulating/gasping objects of interest).

Location: Extreme Robotics Lab (ERL) and National Centre of Nuclear Robotics (NCNR), University of Birmingham, UK. The ERL is one of the leading university robotics labs in Europe dedicated to practical applications of robotics and AI to extreme environments. The student will be working in a brand new state-of-the-art 1000 sq m robotics lab and will have access to a variety of robots (robot arms, mobile robots,mobile manipulators), sensor systems, and in-lab super-computing capabilities.

- BSc/BEng degree or equivalent qualification in Computer Science, Electronic/Electrical/mechanical Engineering , Control Engineering, Mathematics or relevant. Applications from multidisciplinary background candidates (e.g. with background in psychology or human factors) are strongly encouraged.
- MSc in Robotics, AI or in the above mentioned areas. Any applicant without a MSc must be exceptional with a proven research record.
- Oral and written fluency in English
- Proficient C++ and/or Python skills
- Experience in Robotics, autonomous systems and AI

Starting date: October 2019 but other or later dates can be negotiated.

Closing date for application: Applications are open until a suitable candidate is found.

For applying please send an email to Dr Manolis Chiou () with the following information:
- A cover letter outlining any relevant experience, research interests, and why you are pursuing a PhD. (1 page max)
- A PhD research proposal outlining a proposed project and the steps to tackle a problem in the above mentioned research area. (2 pages max excluding references)
- A Curriculum Vitae (CV).
- Two references

Funding Notes

Tax free stipend of ~15000£ per year (RCUK levels); studentship also covers tuition fees for UK, EU, and non EU/international citizens.

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials?
Metallurgy and Materials

FTE Category A staff submitted: 29.10

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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