Jobs: Research Fellows at Heriot-Watt University in Conversational AI/NLP and HRI

Heriot-Watt University
Edinburgh, Great Britain
Interaction Lab, Department of Computer Science

Research Associate / Research Fellow in Conversational AI and NLP
https://www.hw.ac.uk/about/work/jobs/job_SVJDMjQzMTY.htm

Research Associate / Research Fellow in Human-Robot Interaction
https://www.hw.ac.uk/about/work/jobs/job_SVJDMjQzMTU.htm

Application deadline: 15 November 2019

ABOUT HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY

Heriot-Watt University has five campuses: three in the UK (Edinburgh, Scottish Borders and Orkney), one in Dubai and one in Malaysia. The University offers a highly distinctive range of degree programmes in the specialist areas of science, engineering, design, business and languages.

With a history dating back to 1821, Heriot-Watt University has established a reputation for world-class teaching and practical, leading-edge research, which has made it one of the top UK universities for business and industry. We connect with industry at every level and develop programmes to match their needs – so employers get work-ready industry-fit graduates.

Heriot-Watt is also Scotland’s most international university, boasting the largest international student cohort.

We have an established set of values that help us to nurture innovation and leadership, and show our commitment to continuous improvement and development in all our activities.

For full details on our University please view our Careers at Heriot-Watt at http://www.hw.ac.uk/about/careers-at-heriot-watt.htm

ABOUT OUR TEAM

The posts will be located in the Interaction Lab at Heriot-Watt University’s School of Mathematics and Computer Science (MACS), see http://www.macs.hw.ac.uk/InteractionLab. The successful candidates will join a group of about 20 people, consisting of postdoctoral and PhD researchers and faculty with expertise in NLP, machine learning, HRI, and conversational interfaces. Our current projects involve collaborations with the University of Glasgow, IDIAP (Geneva), LAAS (Toulouse), the BBC, SpeechGraphics and others. We also competed in the Amazon Alexa Challenge 2017 and 2018, on conversational AI, having reached the final on both occasions.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The advertised positions will be part of the new “Socially Pertinent Robots In Gerontological healthcare (SPRING)” Horizon 2020 EU project. In SPRING, we are particularly interested in Socially Assistive Robots (SARs) for the elderly. SARs have been acknowledged to be well-suited for explaining complex concepts to patients and there is a consensus that the use of robots in group settings has a positive impact on health. In more detail, it is necessary that SARs are able to understand various individual and group situations, take appropriate decisions, and engage in face-to-face multi-modal dialogue with multiple people. These scenarios are typical of a large variety of social situations that often occur in practice, well beyond healthcare. SPRING, therefore, aims to enable SARs to fulfil social roles and successfully execute tasks by equipping them with the ability to move, see, hear and communicate in complex and unstructured populated spaces.

SPRING is comprised of a highly international project with academic and industry partners in France, Spain, Israel, the Czech Republic, Italy, and the UK.

Conversational AI and NLP Position:

The focus of this position is on Natural Language Processing (NLP) for multi-party interaction. As mentioned above, the SAR should be able to talk to a group of people in a natural and pertinent way. To achieve this, we will build on our success in the MuMMER H2020 EU project (http://mummer-project.eu/) and the Amazon Alexa Challenge. Hence, the main duties are to implement/adapt and evaluate a socially intelligent multi-party conversational system for a SAR, and to collect and analyse multimodal conversational data. The successful applicant is expected to perform collaborative research on AI, NLP and machine learning within an international consortium, publish at high-impact conferences and journals in their field, and disseminate their work at national and international conferences and outreach events. Experience with machine learning methods in conversational AI and spoken dialogue systems/NLP is highly desirable.

The position is available, at grade 7 or 8 depending on experience. The position is for 3 years, with opportunities for extension dependent on performance and future funding applications.

Human-Robot Interaction Position:

The focus of this position is on action planning and execution for Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) in group scenarios. As mentioned above, the SAR should be able to interact with a group of people in a natural and pertinent way. To achieve this, we will build on our success in the MuMMER H2020 EU project (http://mummer-project.eu/) where we developed a system for action selection and execution in an HRI context. Hence, the main duties are to implement/adapt and evaluate a socially intelligent multi-party HRI planning and execution system for a SAR, and to collect and analyse multimodal data. The successful applicant is expected to perform collaborative research on Planning, HRI, AI and machine learning within an international consortium, publish at high-impact conferences and journals in their field, and disseminate their work at national and international conferences and outreach events. Experience with machine learning methods in planning for HRI is highly desirable.

The position is available, at grade 7 or 8 depending on experience. The position is for 3 years, with opportunities for extension dependent on performance and future funding applications.

KEY DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Key duties and responsibilities:

Conversational AI and NLP Position:

  • To implement/adapt and evaluate socially intelligent conversational interfaces for Multi-Party Natural Language Processing;
  • To implement conversational AI applications using machine learning techniques for Multi-Party Dialogue Management, Natural Language Understanding, and Natural Language Generation;
  • To collect and analyse multimodal conversational interaction data in the lab and in the unstructured target environment;
  • To integrate the system on a Socially Assistive Robot.

Human-Robot Interaction Position:

  • To implement a planning and execution framework for HRI for group interaction and general task management;
  • To collect and analyse multimodal interaction data in the lab and in the unstructured target environment;
  • To integrate the system on a Socially Assistive Robot.

EDUCATION, QUALIFICATIONS AND EXPERIENCE    

Conversational AI and NLP Position:

Essential Criteria:

  • Experience (at PhD level or equivalent) with NLP, dialogue systems, AI, Machine Learning, or related research areas;
  • Software development in Python2/3 and other languages such as Java, C++, Matlab, etc.;
  • Experience at conducting experiments with human participants for system evaluation.

Desirable Criteria:

  • Experience in the use of middleware such as the Robot Operating System (ROS) and/or socket-based communication using Flask;
  • Collaborative research experience in large projects;
  • Prior research in the field of multi-party conversational AI;
  • Research experience with speech recognition and synthesis, Natural Language Understanding, Natural Language Generation, Dialogue Management;
  • Experience in conversational systems for robotics;
  • Prior research experience in the health sector preferably in care for older adults.

Human-Robot Interaction Position:

Essential Criteria:

  • Experience (at PhD level or equivalent) with HRI/HCI, Robotics, Planning, AI, Machine Learning, or related research areas;
  • Software development in Python2/3 and other languages such as Java, C++, Matlab, etc.;
  • Experience at conducting experiments with human participants for system evaluation.

Desirable Criteria:

  • Experience in Robotics and the use of Socially Assistive Robots
  • Experience in the use of middleware such as the Robot Operating System (ROS);
  • Collaborative research experience in large projects;
  • Prior research in the field of multi-party HRI;
  • Experience with mobile robots for HRI;
  • Research experience with Planning, Robots in healthcare (for older adults), and/or long-term deployments of robots;

HOW TO APPLY

Applications can be submitted up to midnight (UK time) on Friday 15 November 2019. For more information about the advertised position, please contact Oliver Lemon (o.lemon@hw.ac.uk) and Christian Dondrup (c.dondrup@hw.ac.uk).

Applications from candidates who require sponsorship to work in the UK will be considered alongside other applications.  For further information on this please visit the UK Visas & Immigration website:  https://www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration/work-visas

At Heriot-Watt University we understand that being diverse makes us better which is why we support a culture of respect and equal opportunity, and value diversity at the heart of what we do. We want to increase the diversity of our workplace to underpin a dynamic and creative environment.

We welcome and will consider flexible working patterns e.g. part-time working and job share options.

Use our total rewards calculator: https://www.hw.ac.uk/about/work/total-rewards-calculator.htm to see the value of benefits provided by Heriot-Watt University.

MINIMUM SALARY: 32,817
MAXIMUM SALARY: 49,553
CURRENCY: GBP

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