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  Human-Robot Interaction: science and technology of autonomous social robots

   Faculty of Science and Engineering

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  Dr T Belpaeme, Dr P Baxter  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on October 1st 2014.

This is the age of robots, where robots are not just found in factories picking and placing things, but will enter our daily lives: places where no robot has ever gone before. However, robots currently have limited autonomous social capabilities. For this to change, advances in artificial intelligence need to be matched up with advances in robotics.

This PhD looks into the science and technology of action selection for social humanoid robots. Given sensor input, prior knowledge and dose of social cognition, would it be possible for the robot to autonomously respond in a social manner? Currently almost all social robots need a human hand to operate well: the “Wizard of Oz” idea, where a human operator takes over when the robot is stuck. What is needed to move away from WoZ and build fully autonomous social interaction?

You will be working in the context of the DREAM project (, a multinational European project which studies the science and tech behind the robot-enhanced therapy (RET), specifically targeted at young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. DREAM uses a range of robots, but through its collaboration with Aldebaran the use of the Nao humanoid is central to our research.

Applicants should have (at least) a first or upper second class honours degree in an appropriate subject and preferably a relevant MSc or MRes qualification. We encourage applicants with a background in computer science, artificial intelligence, robotics and/or cognition science.

We expect candidates to be confident programmers (C++ experience recommended): you will spend a considerable amount of time programming and hacking robots and their artificial intelligence, which is not for the fainthearted. A keen interest in science and discovery is a prerequisite, as is not being afraid of international travel to meetings and events.

Funding Notes

The studentship is supported for 3 years and pays a bursary of £17,913 for 2014/2015. The candidate will be liable for their own tuition fees for the duration of the programme. For 2014/2015 fees will be £4,050 p.a. for Home/EU students and £14,000 p.a for overseas students.

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Tony Belpaeme ([Email Address Removed]). However, applications must be made in accordance with the details shown below.


For an application form and full details on how to apply, please visit Applicants should send a completed application form along with a covering letter detailing their suitability for the studentship, C.V., and 2 references to Carole Watson, Graduate School, 305 Link Building, Plymouth PL4 8AA or e-mail

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 28 July 2014. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview in the week of 25 August 2014: we will consider interviews through teleconference, but warmly encourage you to visit Plymouth. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received an offer of a place by 15 September 2014 should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.