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PhD Studentship - Next generation of contextually-aware and AI-powered human computer interaction technology

  • Delivery:
    Full time according to Funding Council definitions

Due to a promising market, human computer dialog is becoming an active topic in academic and creative industry fields. Most of famous companies launched the individual products such as MS Cortana, Xiaoice, OpenAI GPT, Google chat etc. Besides text or text-to-speech, 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 PhD project aims at multichannel user behaviour detection and multimodal data fusion in multimodal human-computer interaction (HCI), which helps improve the believability in human computer dialogs.

This is a fully-funded PhD studentship which includes a stipend of £15,450 each year to support your living costs.

This project is conditional upon the funding being secured.

The closing date for applications is 31st October 2021.

Key information

Next start date:

24 January 2022


Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus


36 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

An ideal candidate should have a background in computer science, mathematics, engineering or a relevant subject.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

It is essential to have programming experience in C, or C++, or python, or JavaScript.

It is desired to have experience in machine learning (e.g. deep learning technology, data mining etc).

Project details

Machine learning and computer vision technology have contributed to the improvements for single channel behaviour perceptions, including speech recognition, facial expression recognition, emotional understanding, gesture comprehension, posture analysis, gaze detection etc. The computer has some ability to understand the user from single channel information. However, it is still a great challenge to understand human users’ intention accurately from their multichannel behaviours. The main challenge is that we need to improve multimodal information fusion in theories, methodologies and practical systems.

Currently, many methods exist for multi-modal information fusion, including Bayesian decision model, Cross modal learning Neural Networks and Graph model based information fusion. However, accurately recognising the user’s intension remains challenging. To improvement on these fronts, this PhD project will focus on:

(1) A novel integration approach of multi-channel interaction information. Multi-channel user behaviour, including voice, posture, emotional expressions etc., in interaction is more likely to lead to uncertainty than the single channel counterpart. The richness and fuzziness of such expressions make it difficult to be accurately mapped to the traditional human-computer interface, which makes the system feedback inaccurate. One of the objectives is to develop novel representation forms for such high dimensional multimodal data and associated multisensory learning algorithms.

(2) Novel multi-channel human-computer interaction learning model. An ideal interaction model should be able to learn, understand and integrate new knowledge into the existing knowledge bases and explore new domain. This is the 2nd objective.

(3) In user interface design, personified avatars prefer that facial expression of a talking head is driven by speech, while capturing and recognizing your expression changes. Moreover, it is desired to make the synthesized facial expression photorealistic rendering in real time. The 3rd objective is to develop a photorealistic talking head as virtual avatar.

This will be a fruitful research journey. The outcomes are very suitable for SMEs and start-ups. Many successful examples related to UI are continuing to bring out in HCI sector in this era of AI.

For applicants, it is essential to have programming experience in C, or C++, or python, or JavaScript. It is desired to have experience in machine learning (e.g. deep learning technology, data mining etc).

View the full project description (pdf164KB)

The closing date for applications is Sunday 31st October 2021.


Dr Hongchuan Yu

Dr 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). 

Please contact Dr Hongchuan Yu for informal enquiries at:

Professor Jian Jun Zhang

Please contact Professor Jian Jun Zhang for informal enquiries at:


A fully-funded Studentship includes a maintenance grant of £15,450 per year to contribute towards living expenses during the course of your research, as well as a fee waiver for 36 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:

It is essential to have programming experience in C, or C++, or python, or JavaScript.

It is desired to have experience in machine learning (e.g. deep learning technology, data mining etc).

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 is 31st October 2021


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.


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