PhD in Cognitive Robotics (THRIVE++ project)

Primary supervisor

Additional supervisors

  • Caroline Jay

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Other projects with the same supervisor


  • Directly Funded Project (European/UK Students Only)
This research project has funding attached. Funding for this project is available to citizens of a number of European countries (including the UK). In most cases this will include all EU nationals. However full funding may not be available to all applicants and you should read the full department and project details for further information.

Project description

The design of Theory of Mind (ToM) capabilities in interactive robotic agents, which builds on the developmental acquisition of basic social and cognitive capabilities, can allow robots to recognise the actions, goals, intentions, desires and beliefs of others. A robot can use its ToM skills to improve the interaction with human users, e.g. by reading the intention of the others and reacting appropriately to the emotional, attentional, and cognitive states of the other agents, to anticipate their reactions, and to modify its own behavior to satisfy these expectations and needs. Moreover, ToM competence on the reading of the goals and beliefs and expected actions of the other agent is key to building and maintaining trust, as it allows the robot to distinguish between reliable (trustworthy) partners and unrealiable (untrustworthy) people or situations.
The THRIVE++ project aims to investigate the complex, dynamic interaction between people???s and robots??? Theory of Mind (ToM) skills for the building of trust. It specifically aims at the design of a developmental robotics cognitive architecture of theory of mind and trust, based on the incremental acquisition of intention reading and ToM agency skills. This architecture will be validated via human-robot interaction experiments on the use of the robot???s ToM in supporting trust interaction with people in a variety of social and environmental contexts.
The PhD student will contribute to this project with the design and implementation of the computational cognitive architecture, using a variety of machine learning and robotics methods. The architecture will use a developmental robotics approach, where the robot acquires incrementally complex skills to represent the intention of others (robots and people). S/he will also be responsible for designing and carrying out of a set of human-robot experiments.

Applicants are expected to have:

* An excellent undergraduate degree in Computer Science or Artificial Intelligence (or related discipline), and preferably, a relevant MSc degree.
* Confidence and independence in programming complex systems.
* Previous academic experience in cognitive robotics or machine learning (desired).
* Excellent report writing and presentation skills.

Please note that applicants must additionally satisfy the standard requirements for postgraduate studies at the University of Manchester, such as a first-class or high upper-second class (or an equivalent international qualification) and English language qualifications, as stated in the PGR guidelines.

Qualified applicants are strongly encouraged to informally contact Professor Angelo Cangelosi ( to discuss the application prior to applying.

Funding Notes

The studentship is part of the project THRIVE++ (Trust in Human-Robot Interaction via Embodiment and Theory of Mind) funded by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Interviews will be held soon after the finalisation of the funding contract.

Person specification

For information


Applicants will be required to evidence the following skills and qualifications.

  • You must be capable of performing at a very high level.
  • You must have a self-driven interest in uncovering and solving unknown problems and be able to work hard and creatively without constant supervision.


Applicants will be required to evidence the following skills and qualifications.

  • You will possess determination (which is often more important than qualifications) although you'll need a good amount of both.
  • You will have good time management.


Applicants will be required to address the following.

  • Discuss your final year Undergraduate project work - and if appropriate your MSc project work.
  • How well does your previous study prepare you for undertaking Postgraduate Research?
  • Comment on your transcript/predicted degree marks, outlining both strong and weak points.
  • Why do you believe you are suitable for doing Postgraduate Research?
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