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‘Smart Speaker’ personal assistants to improve independence, communication and well-being in social care settings

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  • Full or part time
    Dr G Powell
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The emergence of affordable mainstream smart technologies offers an unprecedented opportunity to improve well-being, communication, and independence in social care. This PhD project will investigate the novel use of these technologies in key social care settings, such as adults with learning disabilities living in supported accommodation and older adults living in sheltered accommodation.

The project is grounded in the idea that greater self-determination and agency lead to better well-being and mental health (Ryan & Deci, 2000). New smart technologies, such as ‘Smart Speaker’ intelligent personal assistants (e.g. Amazon Alexa, Google Home), allow individuals to control their home environment via voice commands, and easily access multimedia, the internet, and connect with friends and family. Surprisingly, little research has explored their use in social care settings, and therefore the over-arching aim of this PhD is to establish an evidence-base to inform the use of smart technologies in the future.

The PhD student will be part of a cross-disciplinary team of researchers, social care organisations and clinical practitioners who are exploring the use of smart technologies in social care settings. We have recently completed the first controlled trial of the use of smart speakers by adults with learning disabilities and the PhD project would build on this research.

The project will use a mixed-methods approach – combining qualitative, quantitative, experimental and observational methods - thus providing the opportunity to acquire a wide range of transferable research skills.

The student will be based in the School of Psychology at Cardiff University, and affiliated with the Wales Autism Research Centre, the UKs first national autism centre. They will be supervised by Dr Georgina Powell.

The studentship will commence in October 2020 and will cover your tuition fees (at UK/EU level) as well as a maintenance grant. In 2019-2020 the maintenance grant for full-time students was £15,009 per annum. As well as tuition fees and a maintenance grant, all School of Psychology students receive conference and participant money (approx. £2250 for the duration of the studentship).They also receive a computer, office space and access to courses offered by the University’s Doctoral Academy and become members of the University Doctoral Academy.

As only one studentship is available and a very high standard of applications is typically received, the successful applicant is likely to have a very good first degree (a First or Upper Second class BSc Honours or equivalent) and/or be distinguished by having relevant research experience.

Funding Notes

This studentship is open to Home, EU or international students.

The award offered will cover Home/EU fees and maintenance stipend.

International candidates are welcomed but must be able to self-fund the difference between Home/EU and International fees


You can apply online - consideration is automatic on applying for a PhD in Psychology, with an October 2020 start date (programme code RFPDPSYA).

Please use our online application service and specify in the funding section that you wish to be considered for School funding. Please specify that you are applying for this particular project and the supervisor.

Application deadline: 31st March 2020 with interviews (either in person or by Skype) being held in April and decisions being made by end of April.

How good is research at Cardiff University in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 69.33

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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