ESRC interdisciplinary studentship: Combining dance and robotics to study emotion perception

The Project

The overarching aim of this PhD project is to develop a library of naturalistic emotional movements generated by expert dancers, and then implement and test the communicative value of these movements in artificial agents in naturalistic social settings. This studentship is richly interdisciplinary in nature, drawing from the social sciences, performing arts and engineering to tackle a major challenge that falls under the remit of the RCUK Digital Economy theme: namely, to improve artificial agents’ social acceptance and usability by providing them with emotionally expressive behaviours that are instantly readable by human interaction partners. This project comprises three main studies, with the first two primarily involving social sciences research (with performing arts elements as well), and the third study combining knowledge generated from the social sciences and performing arts with computing science. For the first third of the project, the student will work closely with the Scottish National Ballet and motion tracking technology to create and validate a rich library of emotions expressed via bodily movement. Next, the student will develop expertise with quantitative and qualitative behavioural methods (including eye tracking, self-report measures of affective valence), as well as working with different participant samples (expert and naïve dancers) to further identify how emotion is expressed via bodily movements, and which elements of a body in motion convey the most meaningful information about a mover’s emotion. The final third of the project applies insights gained from the first two parts to the computing science and robotics world, by implementing insights gained into the movements and behaviour of physically present robots and virtual representations of avatars. Together, the project provides an ideal and exciting opportunity to train a PhD student who is equipped with the theoretical and technical skills to work between the social sciences, arts, and technology.

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Funded Studentship: Using Virtual Reality to explore the inner perceptual world of autism

ESRC Studentship advertisement 

ESRC Collaborative Award: Using Virtual Reality Technology to Explore the Inner Perceptual World of Autism

Description
Autism, a common neuro-developmental condition, affects at least 1% of the UK population. Autism is partly characterized by sensory difficulties, such as over- or under-responsiveness to certain types of lighting and everyday noises, and an almost obsessive desire for particular types of sensory stimulation, known as “sensory seeking” behaviour. To date, most research on sensory aspects of autism has used parent/caregiver-reports, combined with a smaller amount of self-report data from those able to speak for themselves and further data from lab-based experiments. So far, however, despite these data providing us with some fascinating insights, we have yet to fully appreciate precisely what is going on in the “inner perceptual world” of autism, although it is clear that it is qualitatively different from what typical individuals experience.

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