[Elsnet-list] PhD Studentship on "Generating and Grounding Referring Expressions" at University of Saarland, Germany

Maria Staudte mariastaudte at googlemail.com
Mon Mar 4 03:57:31 CET 2013

PhD Studentship "Generating and Grounding Referring Expressions" in 

Saarland University, Saarbruecken, Germany

The Embodied Spoken Interaction (ESI) group at the Saarland University, 
headed by Dr. Maria Staudte, invites applications for a PhD studentship, 
available from June 1st, 2013 (75% TV-L E13).

People look at what is being talked about. By following referring 
expressions (RE) to their referent, a person can ground that expression 
in the environment and fully understand and validate the utterance that 
contains it. In turn, fixating the intended referent signals to the 
speaker that the listener has understood. Thus, listener eye-movements 
fulfill several roles: While (privately) seeking visual information 
linked to the utterance content, they also (publicly) reflect 
(un-)successful reference resolution or, more generally, belief states 
of the listener to the speaker.
In a dynamic and complex environment, such as the GIVE challenge, in 
which other tasks are involved as well, it becomes increasingly 
difficult to infer *what* precisely listener eye-movements reflect 
*when*. Understanding such patterns and how they can be exploited most 
efficiently by a system generating navigational instructions is a major 
concern of this research project.

The proposed PhD project will develop strategies and algorithms for a RE 
generation system that is informed about the user's visual attention at 
any given time by modern remote eye-tracking technology. Besides the 
developing component, this research is also empirical and will involve 
the design of user studies and data analysis to develop and test these 
strategies. Alternative settings, such as in-car tracking along with 
navigational instructions, are also conceivable in order to explore 
effective ways of using listener gaze for giving efficient and safe 

Applicants should hold a Master degree in computational linguistics, 
computer science, cognitive science or equivalent, and should have an 
interest in modeling and understanding the dynamics of gaze and speech 
in interaction. Good programming skills are necessary. Experience with 
experiment design and statistics are an advantage but not required. Most 
importantly, the successful applicant should be enthusiastic about the 
general research questions and be prepared to learn new methods.

The Embodied Spoken Interaction (ESI) group is part of the "Multi-modal 
Computing and Interaction" Cluster of Excellence 
(http://www.mmci.uni-saarland.de/) at Saarland University which provides 
a very fruitful and constructive research environment with excellent 
opportunities for exchange and cooperation. The group has access to 
numerous state-of-the-art eye-tracking laboratories, a 64 channel 
EEG/ERP lab, and modern computing infrastructure, and conducts research 
at the level of international excellence.
The candidate will be expected to contribute to the high standards of 
the group and to be actively involved in the preparation and publication 
of new results. Further information about the group can be found at: 

Applicants should submit their research statement, a CV, a copy of their 
school and university degrees, a representative reprint (thesis or paper 
if applicable), and names and contact information of two references. The 
position remains open until filled, but preference will be given to 
applications received by 1 April.
All documents should be e-mailed as a single PDF to:

Dr. Maria Staudte
e-mail: masta at coli.uni-saarland.de
Department of Computational Linguistics
Saarland University
66123 Saarbruecken, Germany

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