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Project 8: Understanding sensorimotor optimisation of bimanual telerobotics from a human user perspective

   School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences

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  Dr Peter Scarfe, Prof W Harwin  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

In collaboration with: RACE (UK Atomic Energy Authority)

Project background

Our everyday movements are effortless, yet this contrasts dramatically with the difficulty of performing even simple tasks when working at a distance using a robotic tele-manipulator system e.g., in robot assisted surgery or remote maintenance in the nuclear sector. The aim of this project is to experimentally determine how to best design and use such systems for remote operations in challenging environments. This is critical, as current systems are difficult to use, require a large amount of training to be mastered, and are as a result highly costly to operate.

The Vision and Haptics Laboratory at Reading ( works in close collaboration with RACE (, a robotics research facility specialising in robotics and AI for extreme environments. The project is joint funded by EUROfusion which is the umbrella organisation of Europe’s fusion research laboratories ( The project therefore offers the student the truly unique opportunity to see how fundamental research in Perceptual Psychology is applied to solve real-world problems, as world leading research team.

Project aims and objectives

  • The core aim of the project is to parametrically map out how sensory-transforms (e.g., differences in rotation, translation, and scale) between visual and proprioceptive/haptic workspaces impact the usability of bimanual (two handed) operations in a state of the art visual-haptic tele-manipulator system.
  • Designing and running behavioural experiments (including with operators at RACE) to assess the impact of sensory-transforms on various aspects of task performance.
  • Presentation research at national and international conferences, and other research meetings e.g., to industrial partners.
  • Write up research for publication in leading academic journal and conference proceedings.
  • Engagements with wider stakeholders, for example, National Health Service (NHS)

Training Opportunities

  • Training in the use of virtual reality, haptics, robotics, and motion tracking systems, in cutting-edge applied perceptual research.
  • Training in quantitative research methods, programming, data science and statistics.
  • You will be given the opportunity to attend advanced research methods workshops, both externally at RACE and at the University of Reading.
  • Training in how to effectively present research to a diverse range of audiences e.g., academic, industry and the wider public.
  • Onsite training at RACE in the wider use of telerobotic systems across the sector

Applicants: essential and/or desirable attributes/skills


  • First class degree or high 2:1 in a relevant discipline. We invite applications from students with a background in Psychology, Neuroscience, Engineering or Computer Science
  • Demonstratable strong numeracy and logical thinking
  • Clear desire to work with virtual reality, haptic interfaces, robotics and motion tracking systems
  • Clear interest in the applied applications of academic research


  • Background in programming, for example, C/C++, Python, Matlab, or computer game engines such as Unity or Unreal Engine
  • Background in quantitative research with human participants
  • Experience in using virtual reality equipment
  • Experience in using statistical analyses to address research questions
  • Experience and interest in writing academic papers

Studentship Details:

  • This studentship may be taken as either a 1+3 year award (a one-year MSc followed by a three-year PhD), a +3 award (a three-year PhD)
  • It may be taken full-time or part-time
  • The studentship award covers your university fees and provides you with a stipend of £15,609 per year. You will also be able to apply for small amounts of additional funding via the SeNSS Research Training Support Grant.

Residential eligibility

  • To be eligible for a full award you must be a Home or International student who satisfies the criteria below:

To be a home student, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK national (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If you do not meet any of the criteria above, you are classed as an international student.

How to apply for this studentship

In order to be considered for this SeNSS studentship, you must first apply for a place to study University of Reading, noting that you are applying for the collaborative studentship. Please go to University of Reading, How to apply for a PhD


The deadline for submitting your application on HEIApply is 12:00 GMT on 28 February 2022

No extensions to this deadline will be permitted.

For further enquiries:

For enquiries related to the studentship topic, please email Dr Peter Scarfe ([Email Address Removed])

For enquiries related to your eligibility for this studentship, and the application process, please email: [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This competition is open to Home and International students, subject to certain conditions.
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