UK: Ph.D. studentship – Computer science

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The studentship below has had to be re-advertised due to unforeseen circumstances.
Please circulate widely and to any social science friends/colleagues. The emphasis is on
developing innovative social science techniques, so you don’t need to be a tech-head to

GWR and OC Robotics Ltd. funded PhD Studentship [re-advertisement]

Enhancing social presence within human-robot interaction through the snake-skinned
robot arm

Following the award of a Great Western Research Ph.D. Studentship to Dr. Mark Paterson
and Professor Paul Cloke, the University of Exeter, in partnership with the University of
Bristol and OC Robotics Ltd., is seeking to appoint a suitably qualified applicant for a
doctoral studentship for three years, commencing 1 October 2008 or soon thereafter.

The studentship will explore the role of human-robot interaction (HRI) with a robot arm in
a range of spaces associated with various client groups. While there are currently
industrial applications for this technology, this exciting project focuses on future
applications that can build upon the vast potential market for service robots. Given
demographic shifts and the projected economics of healthcare provision within the next
decades, potential client groups include the elderly (for personal care and as mobility
aids), and children (daycare assistance). Within a broader social- science perspective the
research student will explore ideas of ‘social presence’. The social presence of snake-like
robots will be significant given its non-humanoid nature. Therefore, utilising a range of
social science methods to explore interactions between individuals and robots will lead to
design innovations, make user interactions more intuitive, and increase acceptability of
non-humanoid robot forms amongst non-traditional client groups within domestic spaces.
The research findings will not only contribute to innovative work in the burgeoning field of
human-robot interaction (HRI), but also involve and develop cutting-edge social science
research methodologies.
The successful applicant is likely to have a strong educational background in Human
Geography or an analogous social science, and demonstrable potential for Ph.D. research
on this topic which involves a theoretical grasp of embodied space and movement, along
with aptitude for grounded research with particular social groups. There is great potential
in this project to develop and experiment with embodied observational techniques, and
we will encourage this experimentation through combinations of traditional and non-
traditional methods (e.g. video, movement notations, user logs etc) to feedback user
experience to the team of designers, programmers and engineers.

The student will be based in the Department of Geography at the University’s Streatham
Campus in Exeter, although the project will be jointly supervised by the Department of
Computer Science at the University of Bristol. Under the terms of the GWR studentship
scheme the successful applicant will also benefit from opportunities to work closely with
OC Robotics, communicating the outputs of the PhD research to non-academic audiences.

UK level fees will be paid, together with a maintenance grant which will match the
standard ESRC rate. For further information, or informal discussion about the position,
please contact the principal supervisor, Dr. Mark Paterson

Applicants should send a copy of their CV, with the names and addresses of 2 referees,
plus a brief statement outlining their academic interests and their reasons for wishing to
undertake this research project to: Helen Pisarska (

Closing date for completed applications is 1st September 2008. This is a re-
advertisement. Previous applicants need not re-apply.

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