This opportunity is now closed.

Funded PhD Opportunity

Should smart speakers and chatbots be polite, caring and emotionally intelligent?

Subject: Computer Science and Informatics


Summary

Conversational user interfaces or ‘chatbots’, accessible via ‘smart’ speakers’ or social media ‘direct messaging’ are software applications that engage in interactions with humans, either to automate task-related interactions, such as booking a table at a restaurant, or to engage in chat for purposes such as entertainment or companionship. The demands on chatbots to have a capability to understand the conversation with humans is opening up new research avenues as the topics of conversation turn to mental health and as digital natives seek answers in anonymity from chatbots on their phones and in their homes.

This PhD research will explore the different perspectives on how computers as chatbots interact with humans. People relate to and appreciate if an interaction with a machine is designed to take account of their ‘humanness’. This is the Computer As Social Agent (CASA) perspective. Another perspective is the Uncanny Valley of Mind (UVM) perspective, where the machine is very human-like but with some slight defect and this makes a human uncomfortable without necessarily knowing why.

The PhD study will build experiments using chatbot development frameworks employing these UVM and CASE perspectives and will explore which interaction paradigms work best with people, across ‘smart’ speakers’ and social media ‘direct messaging’ modalities. The work builds on a significant track record of success at Ulster University in chatbot research, including European, UK and Northern Ireland funding.

This is an opportunity to be part of a growing interdisciplinary research team in this exciting area, with researchers from computer science, psychology, and business researchers in the University all contributing to the team.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant 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.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant 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.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees 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.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. 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.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Adrian Johnston

As Senior Engineering Manager of Analytics at Seagate Technology I utilise the learning from my PhD ever day

Adrian Johnston - PhD in Informatics

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 18 February 2019

Interview Date
25 to 29 March 2019


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses


Contact supervisor

Professor Maurice Mulvenna


Other supervisors

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