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Multimodal behaviour understanding in human-computer dialogues

  • Delivery:
    Full time according to Funding Council definitions

PhD Studentship - Multimodal behaviour understanding in human-computer dialogues

This studentship is based in one of our Doctoral Training Centres, the Centre for Digital Entertainment (CDE). When you undertake your PhD in the CDE, you will be contributing to an exciting research environment alongside other students working in the same field. The projects you will work on are different, but will be complementary elements of a larger-scale collaboration. Working in the CDE allows you to develop relevant technical and transferrable skills, while forging links with world-leading industry partners through our placement scheme. The CDE is currently advertising three studentships for a January 2021 start, and this cohort will be joined by three further students in September 2021.

In multimodal human computer dialogs, non-verbal channels, such as facial expressions, postures and gestures, combined with emotion in speech, are important in understanding the dialogue. This is because in human communications, the information is often transmitted from multiple channels, including facial expressions, emotional voices, postures and gestures. Understanding of people’s intentions from their multichannel information plays a key role in natural interaction. This project aims at multichannel user behaviour detection and multimodal data fusion in multimodal human-computer interaction, which helps improve the believability in human computer dialogs.

The National Centre for Computer Animation (NCCA) is a leading centre in computer animation and visualisation research in the UK and has for many years been researching on realistic virtual humans. The NCCA was awarded the Queens Anniversary Prize for Higher Education and was voted the number 1 education base for animation in the UK by the influential professional magazine 3D World.

Find out more about CDE.

This is a fully-funded PhD studentship which includes a stipend of £15,225 each year to support your living costs.

Key information

Next start date:

January 2021


Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus


48 months

Entry requirements:

Outstanding academic potential as measured normally by either a 1st class honours degree or equivalent Grade Point Average (GPA), or a Master’s degree with distinction or equivalent. If English is not your first language you'll need IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 6.0 in each component, or equivalent). For more information check out our full entry requirements

Project details

This PhD research project forms an integral part of the Intelligent Virtual Personal Assistant (Intel-PA) project, which is being undertaken at the National Centre for Computer Animation at Bournemouth University. The Intel-PA consists of three key functional components with the ability to: detect the motions and emotions of the human user; perform sensible conversations; and enact appropriate body gestures and facial expressions. By performing such human - like functions, the Intel-PA will be able to play a huge role in many applications, such as healthcare, training, education, marketing and decision making.

The aim of this research is to investigate and create novel algorithms and techniques leading to the development of the three landmark components of Intel-PA. The initial six projects will define the research focus for the six PhD students. Working as a multidisciplinary team of researchers and supervisors, we will demonstrate the research by developing an Intelligent Neur-Assistant, an AI-powered conversational animated avatar that can have a plausible initial consultation with a patient with neurological conditions by integrating these six projects. All students will have to contribute to the overall objectives of the research with each of them concentrating on an individual research project.

We are looking for an enthusiastic individual to join our research team as a fully funded PhD student. 

View the full project description (PDF 240Kb).

The closing date for applications is 20 July 2020.


Hongchuan Yu

Hongchuan Yu currently works as a Principal Academic in computer graphics and animation in National Centre for Computer Animation. He coordinated units, including Foundation of Computer Science (Level UG), Computing for Graphics & Animation C++ (Level UG), Personal Inquiry (level PG) and Numerical optimization methods (level PG). Prior to this appointment Dr Yu worked as a research fellow with School of Computer Science & Software Engineering, The University of Western Australia (Perth), and School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), and Dept. of Computer Science, Tsinghua University (Beijing). Dr Yu’s research interests include computer vision, visualization, computer graphics and animation. Recent works mainly focus on Deep Learning Techniques with applications to graphics and animation. He has published more than 80 peer-reviewed papers on Journals and International academic conferences. The distinctive achievement is that he led the international collaboration project (with The University of HongKong, China) and published the research paper in Top Conference-SIGGRAPH 2016, which is the first SIGGRAPH paper led by NCCA academic. Besides, Dr Yu secured multiple external research grants and regularly served as PC members/referees for academic journals and international conferences. He is also a Fellow of Higher Education Academy UK (FHEA).


A fully-funded Studentship includes a maintenance grant of £15,225 per year to contribute towards living expenses during the course of your research, as well as a fee waiver for 48 months.

Associated costs, such as for fieldwork and conference attendance, will also be met under the Studentship.

Academic support

The Research Development Programme, developed by the Doctoral College in line with the Researcher Development Framework (Vitae).

An added benefit is the opportunity to meet researchers from other academic schools at BU through the activities of the Doctoral College and benefit from their experiences, skills, and perspectives.

Full entry requirements

The BU PhD and MRes Studentships are open to UK, EU and International students.

Candidates for a PhD Studentship should demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 4 years and must demonstrate:

  • Outstanding academic potential as measured normally by either a 1st class honours degree (or equivalent Grade Point Average (GPA) or a Master’s degree with distinction or equivalent
  • An IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 6.0 in each component, or equivalent) for candidates for whom English is not their first language and this must be evidenced at point of application.

In addition to satisfying minimum entry criteria, BU will look closely at the qualities, skills and background of each candidate and what they can bring to their chosen research project in order to ensure successful completion.

Applicants will be asked to submit an online application form and a proposal (approximately 1500 words) outlining their understanding of the project for which they are applying, the approach they would envisage taking and what qualities they will bring to the research community.

Please note:

  • current BU Doctoral students are not eligible to apply for a Studentship
  • current MRes/MPhil students can apply, subject to satisfactory completion of their Research Degree prior to being able to take up the award
  • PhD Studentships cannot be used to support BU staff to complete doctoral programmes.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

  • An ideal candidate should have a background in computer science, mathematics, engineering or a similar subject. Strong computer programming skills are essential.

International entry requirements

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide evidence that you can understand English to a satisfactory level. English language requirements for this course are normally: 

IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 (with a minimum 6.0 in each component) or equivalent.

View further information about our English language requirements.

A number of pre-sessional English and preparatory programmes are offered through our partner institution, Bournemouth University International College, and will get you ready for study at BU at the appropriate level.

You can also find further details of the international qualifications we accept, and what level of study they apply to, on our postgraduate entry requirements page.

How to apply

Click the green ‘Apply now’ button at the top of the page and complete the online application form. You can find further guidance about applying for a postgraduate research degree in our Postgraduate Research section.

The closing date for applications 20 July 2020. 


A research degree can open new career opportunities in commercial research and development, consultancy, or could lead you to starting your own business. You may alternatively consider a career in academia. You may wish to undertake research to contribute to your knowledge of a specialist subject, or develop your employability by enhancing your skills in project management and analysis.


The Doctoral College

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Fees and funding

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