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AISB opportunities Bulletin Item

PhD studentship: Humanoid Robots as Assistants and Companions, University of Hertfordshire, UK

Human-Robot Interaction is a quickly growing research area with a number of applications in 
assistive technology and service robotics. The research team at University of Hertfordshire led 
by Prof. Dautenhahn is involved in several projects relevant to this field, namely Aurora and 
Roboskin (where we investigate the use of the KASPAR robot in human‐robot interaction scenarios 
with children with autism) and LIREC/ACCOMPANY (where we study robots as long-term companions e.g. 
for use in the homes of elderly people). A key research issue relevant to both projects concerns 
the adaptation of the robots behaviour e.g. to the individual needs and preferences of the person.
A personalized robot companion needs to know its users, and be able to adapt in long-term interaction.

The PhD project will focus of the topic of social learning and adaptation, i.e. will develop the 
robots ability to be taught by its user, and to learn socially by observing and analyzing the 
interaction. Such research is strongly inspired by biology and psychology concerning the way how 
humans and other animals learn from each other by observation, interaction and communication. 
Another area of inspiration comes from developmental psychology since infants learn many new 
skills in interaction with their caretakers. The group has a strong track record in the area of 
imitation and social learning. The team at University of Hertfordshire is one of the internationally
leading teams in human‐robot interaction. The PhD student will develop new social learning and 
adaptation algorithms, as well as participate in the preparation, implementation and analysis of 
human‐robot interaction studies. Depending on the students abilities and interests, the focus of 
the PhD research could be either on assistive technology (cf. our work on robot‐assisted play for 
children with autism http://www.aurora‐project.com) or on home companions (service robots, see e.g. 
http://lirec.eu/ and http://accompanyproject.eu/).

The PhD student will be part of a larger research team consisting of researchers working in the 
above mentioned European projects, as well as other research group members. The PhD student will 
have the opportunity to work with state of the art humanoid robots, including KASPAR 
(http://www.kaspar.herts.ac.uk/) which was developed by our research group.

Research in Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire has been recognized as excellent 
by the latest Research Assessment Exercise, with 55% of the research submitted being rated as world
leading or internationally excellent. The Science and Technology Research Institute provides a
very stimulating environment, offering a large number of specialized and interdisciplinary seminars
as well as general training opportunities. The University of Hertfordshire is situated in Hatfield,
just north of London.

Applicants are required to have a strong first degree or Masters degree in Computer Science, 
Robotics or a related area relevant to the project. An additional background in human‐computer 
interaction, cognitive science or psychology is highly desirable. Excellent programming skills 
are essential (including C++), the ability to interface robot sensors and develop software on 
robots is a necessary requirement of this studentship, as well as a general interest in 
interdisciplinary research and willingness to collaborate with researchers from other disciplines. 
The ideal candidate will be self‐motivated with good writing and communication skills.

Successful candidates are eligible for a research studentship award from the University 
(approximately 13,600 per annum bursary plus the payment of the standard UK/EU student fees). 
Applicants from outside the UK or EU are eligible, but will have to pay half of the overseas fees 
out of their bursary. Information about the current tuition fees can be found at 

The PhD will be supervised by Prof. Kerstin Dautenhahn (K.Dautenhahn@herts.ac.uk), whom interested 
candidates are invited to contact via email in the first instance. Note, all applications must be 
made formally via our Research Office: 

Application forms should be returned to Mrs Lorraine Nicholls, Research Student Administrator, 
STRI, University of Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield, Herts, AL10 9AB, Tel: 01707 286083, 
l.nicholls @ herts.ac.uk. The short-listing process will begin on 22 June 2012.