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Interpretations of machine capability and emotion in human-robot interactions

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, April 01, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Social robots are machines that will operate autonomously in public spaces, the great majority in non-humanoid form. They must be capable of behaving in a manner that is intelligible to the people who encounter them so that they neither disrupt nor mislead.
The human tendency to anthropomorphize is likely to play a role in the interpretations people make of robots, including beliefs about emotional states, especially when such interpretations derive from robot behaviour in relation to other people. Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) research is needed to expose key design issues for robot behaviour social settings. This PhD will build on Novikova & Watts HRI research on behavioural cues in non-humanoid robots that can imply an artificial emotional state. The research would involve collaboration with a dance choreographer and audience engagement activities as a means to include members of the public in setting a research agenda for HRI.

This project is associated with the UKRI CDT in Accountable, Responsible and Transparent AI (ART-AI), which is looking for its first cohort of at least 10 students to start in September 2019. Students will be fully funded for 4 years (stipend, UK/EU tuition fees and research support budget). Further details can be found at:

Desirable qualities in candidates include intellectual curiosity, programming experience (preferably with Arduinos); must have studied Human-Computer Interaction at degree level; helpful to have an interest in contemporary dance.

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree. A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Informal enquiries about the project should be directed to Dr Leon Watts: .

Enquiries about the application process should be sent to .

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Computer Science:

Start date: 23 September 2019.

Funding Notes

ART-AI CDT studentships are available on a competition basis for UK and EU students for up to 4 years. Funding will cover UK/EU tuition fees as well as providing maintenance at the UKRI doctoral stipend rate (£15,009 per annum for 2019/20) and a training support fee of £1,000 per annum.

We also welcome all-year-round applications from self-funded candidates and candidates who can source their own funding.


Jekaterina Novikova and Leon Watts (2015).
'Towards Artificial Emotions to Assist Social Coordination in HRI'

International Journal of Social Robotics February 2015, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 77–88.
Ryan Kelly and Leon Watts (2017).
' Slow but Likeable? Inefficient Robots as Caring Team Members '
Paper presented at the CSCW2017 Workshop on Robots in Groups and Teams.
Jekaterina Novikova, Leon Watts and Tetsunari Inamura (2015).
'Emotionally Expressive Robot Behavior Improves Human-Robot Collaboration'
24th International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication; IEEE RO-MAN2015, Kobe, Japan. 2015-08-31 - 2015-09-04. DOI: 10.1109/ROMAN.2015.7333645 .

How good is research at University of Bath in Computer Science and Informatics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.00

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

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