PhD Study : Robotic In-hand Object Manipulation with tactile sensing

Apply and key information  

Summary

Although the ability for a robot to determine an object’s properties by touch has been investigated for many years, recent developments in tactile sensors has increased interest in this field. Haptic exploration can facilitate access to unique object information (e.g. weight of an object, surface texture, deformation properties) and subsequently can be used to achieve small-scale adjustive manipulation tasks or re-orientation of an object without large motion.

One major problem with the integration of tactile signals for in-hand manipulation is in capturing the relationship between the time-variant tactile sensor data and the motion performed by the hand. Learning approaches offer a unique opportunity to learn through experience and, in particular, hierarchical Graph Neural Networks have emerged as a popular way to capture tactile features at different levels. When object pose has been identified, Reinforcement Learning may be used to perform haptic exploration.

This project will focus on addressing fundamental challenges related to in-hand object manipulation such as differing tactile sensor technologies, dealing with different multi-fingered robotic hands, accurately learning informative tactile features, determining object properties from small-scale manipulation, and development of effective haptic exploration strategies.

Please note that a research proposal is NOT required for this project.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • A demonstrable interest in the research area associated with the studentship

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 70%
  • For VCRS Awards, Masters at 75%
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Experience of presentation of research findings

Funding and eligibility

The University offers the following levels of support:

Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

The following scholarship options are available to applicants worldwide:

  • Full Award: (full-time tuition fees + £19,000 (tbc))
  • Part Award: (full-time tuition fees + £9,500)
  • Fees Only Award: (full-time tuition fees)

These scholarships will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance) and will provide a £900 per annum research training support grant (RTSG) to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Please note: you will automatically be entered into the competition for the Full Award, unless you state otherwise in your application.

Department for the Economy (DFE)

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £19,000 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance).

This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

  • Candidates with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, who also satisfy a three year residency requirement in the UK prior to the start of the course for which a Studentship is held MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance.
  • Republic of Ireland (ROI) nationals who satisfy three years’ residency in the UK prior to the start of the course MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance (ROI nationals don’t need to have pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to qualify).
  • Other non-ROI EU applicants are ‘International’ are not eligible for this source of funding.
  • Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Due consideration should be given to financing your studies. Further information on cost of living

Recommended reading

[1] Funabashi, Satoshi, et al. "Multi-fingered in-hand manipulation with various object properties using graph convolutional networks and distributed tactile sensors." IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters 7.2 (2022): 2102-2109.

[2] Mohtasham, D., Narayanan, G., Calli, B., Spiers, A.J.: Haptic object parameter estimation during within-hand-manipulation with a simple robot gripper. In: 2020 IEEE Haptics Symposium (HAPTICS) (2020)

[3] Zhou, X., Spiers, A.J.: E-troll: Tactile sensing and classification via a simple robotic gripper for extended rolling manipulations. In: 2022 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) (2022)

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 26 February 2024
04:00PM

Interview Date
25 April 2024

Preferred student start date
16 September 2024

Applying

Apply Online  

Contact supervisor

Dr Dermot Kerr

Other supervisors