[Elsnet-list] PhD Studentship on "Joint Attention in Human-Agent-Interaction" at University of Saarland, Germany

Maria Staudte mariastaudte at googlemail.com
Mon Mar 4 03:56:58 CET 2013

PhD Studentship "Joint Attention in Human-Agent-Interaction" 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 interact using speech as well as other non-verbal cues. Gaze, for 
instance, ubiquitously accompanies utterances in face-to-face 
interaction and may provide additional referential information from the 
speaker or may reveal whether the listener has understood. Following the 
partner's gaze to share visual information (and establish joint 
attention) can therefore be essential for successful and efficient 
Understanding and modeling the dynamic interplay of speech and 
non-verbal cues such as gaze and how they combine to encode a particular 
message is a complex enterprise. The use of virtual agents as 
interaction partners provides one way to approach this problem: The 
artificial partner introduces a precise, controllable, and yet dynamic 
component to the interaction with humans. Using them as test beds 
enables us to observe, model and test complex multi-modal behaviors.

The proposed PhD project will develop and simulate interactive behaviors 
of a virtual character using state-of-the-art virtual agent software 
(developed here at the MMCI Cluster of Excellence) and modern eye- and 
motion-tracking systems. Besides the technical component, this research 
is also empirical and will involve the design of user studies and data 
analysis in order to address questions such as when joint attention 
is/should be established and how it affects spoken content.

Applicants should hold a Master degree in computational linguistics, 
computer science, cognitive science, psychology or psycholinguistics (or 
and should have an interest in modeling and understanding the dynamics 
of gaze and speech in interaction. Basic 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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