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Funded PhD Opportunity

Magic Hands: Non-invasive hand tracking for virtual reality and game based stroke rehabilitation.

Subjects: Computer Science and Informatics and Computer Science and Informatics


Summary

Intensive rehabilitation is important for stroke survivors but difficult to achieve due to limited access to rehabilitation therapy. Our previous research [1-3] has involved the development of supplemental assistive technology solutions for exercise and rehabilitation therapy, through the provision of engaging personalised exercises embedded in VR games and using natural hand motion as game controllers. Methods of capturing and quantifying natural hand movements and tracking changes to these over time will be investigated at a fine level (finger and hand gesture tracking) and a coarse level (hand and arm motion). Whilst work has been carried out in capturing and analysing data from healthy hands, a gap exists in doing so for disabled hands.

The proposed research will focus particularly on disabled hand data and will include the collection of a novel, high quality data set. Issues in detecting disabled hand gesture and movement include occlusion, position, shape of the disabled hand, and a lack of movement. Various sensors and aesthetics for capturing hand and arm data will be investigated and compared including webcams, depth cameras, haptics and wi-fi sensors, with a focus on those which are most precise. A redundancy architecture including a novel, multi-resolution sensor fusion technique will be developed to enhance reliability of data tracking. The robust development and refinement of this system will require a balanced and representative data set of adequate volume. Whilst a new data set will be collected, it will be necessary to augment this real data to enhance system development accuracy and efficiency. Deep learning architectures such as Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) will be investigated and implemented for this purpose.

This project will utilise state-of-the-art research infrastructure and equipment available within the Intelligent Systems Research Centre (ISRC) Scan-iHub. Research builds upon research undertaken across several European projects (EU H2020 projects MAGIC, VR-Relief, and MIDAS) and will utlise existing partnerships with the public and private sector.

1.   Howes, S., Charles, D. K., Pedlow, K., Wilson, IM., Holmes, D. & McDonough, S., User-centred design of an active computer gaming system for strength and balance exercises for older adults In : Journal of Enabling Technologies. 13, 2, p. 101-111, 17 Jun 2019.

2.   Gaming for Health: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Physical and Cognitive Effects of Active Computer Gaming in Older Adults, In : Physical Therapy. 97, 12, p. 1122-1137, 30 Aug 2017.

3.   Holmes, D., Charles, D. K., Morrow, PJ., McClean, S. & McDonough, S. M., Usability and performance of Leap Motion and Oculus Rift for upper arm virtual reality stroke rehabilitation, In : Journal of Alternative Medicine Research. 9, 4, p. 1-10, 15 Feb 2017.


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.
  • Research proposal of 1500 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project
  • 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%
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • Applicants will be shortlisted if they have an average of 75% or greater in a first (honours) degree (or a GPA of 8.75/10). For applicants with a first degree average in the range of 70% to 74% (GPA 3.3): If they are undertaking an Masters, then the average of their first degree marks and their Masters marks will be used for shortlisting.

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

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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
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
23 to 24 March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Magee campus

Magee campus
A key player in the economy of the north west


Contact supervisor

Dr Darryl Charles


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