Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) has an agreement with the China Scholarship Council (CSC), which enables excellent Chinese students to finish their PhD degrees at TU/e with a 4-year scholarship from the CSC. Students from all Chinese universities are eligible for this program.

PhD in

Creating intelligent systems, products and related services in a societal context

at Department of Industrial Design, Eindhoven University of Technology


The department of Industrial Design (ID) of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is located in a highly industrialized region, known as ‘Brainport’. This region is internationally recognized as a top technology area with a special focus on the integration of design and technology. The department was established in close collaboration with the technological industry, and, because of this, focuses its research on the Design of Intelligent Systems, Products and related Services in a societal context. With these intelligent systems it aims at offering new, breakthrough possibilities leading to societal transformations.

Innovative solutions today increasingly address a complex web in which products, services, technologies and user needs are interwoven. This in turn means that innovation is increasingly dependent on agreements within larger groups of stakeholders. Companies can no longer rely solely on technology breakthroughs and incremental product development. Effective differentiation and real added value for the consumer are achieved by incorporating end-user insights in product innovation. This takes on an added significance when designing solutions for the emerging connected, digitally enabled world.

Products and services are increasingly overlapping, everyday products are more intelligent and adaptive, and the focus is on ‘systems' rather than stand-alone devices. Additionally, user needs are evolving over time. Maintaining simplicity and understanding the user in such a landscape becomes a challenge. The need to be connected and the need for the customer to be an integral part of the value chain has forced all leading industrial and political bodies to incorporate human values, needs and desires from the very beginning of the innovation process. Innovation in this climate requires social science, design, engineering and business to be brought together in an interdisciplinary way. Industrial design should simultaneously support and catalyze the contributions of all participants, enabling a collaborative exploration of potential futures that can be translated to each partner's individual perspective.

As society exits the Industrial Age, so the excesses of daily production and consumption patterns are becoming evident. The ‘old-new' way of doing things, based on productivity and more of everything and faster, was based on the metaphor of the machine. Today, the issue is about relevant and meaningful innovation for society, for cultures and for people. Integration of the Design, Engineering and Social Sciences perspectives will enable us to create intelligent systems, products and related services in a societal context based on ‘human values' rather than on the ‘efficiency' criterion that has saturated today's design.

Applicants to this PhD research shall have a background in industrial design, digital arts and interactive media, human-computer interaction, computer science, information technology, electrical engineering, bio-medical engineering, mechanical engineering and physics. We are aiming at recruiting up to 8 CSC PhDs in 2016.

The applicants can apply for one of the following topics:

  1. Interactive Sound in Everyday Life. In this project you will explore the possiblities of sound at the interface with everyday life. Compared to the visual modality, the auditory modality exists over space, i.e. you do not have to face the source of sound the hear it. This makes sound well suited to support so-called ‘eyes-busy, hands-busy’ tasks. It can be used to support people's main task, to monitor ongoing tasks, or to carry out a secondary task in the periphery of your attention. In this project we will investigate the qualities of sound that make it the prime modality to support peripheral interaction. A drawback of using sound is that it cannot be ignored by other people in the environment for whom the ongoing interaction is not relevant; people can not close their ears! This gives rise to special challenges to the sound design of the information. The aesthetical qualities of the sound design should be informative for users interacting with the auditory interface but also valued for of its ‘beauty' by people who do not have a stake in the interaction. The specific application that will be chosen in this project will be decided upon after an initial phase in which the literature will be studied and some small explorative sound design studies are conducted. For now we envision two possible application domains that link to other projects in the department: the ‘Peripheral Interaction' project in which the use of audio to support the communication between children or students with their teachers could be further investigated, or the ‘Materialising Memoires' project in which the importance and use of audio for supporting people’s autobiographical memory would be the focus. A PhD student working in the ‘Interactive Sound in Everyday Life’ project should have a very strong interest in the scientific aspects of sound (and music) and preferably has experience in sound design for music or other application domains.

  2. Design of grounded interactive systems. The ability of an artificial system to autonomously establish an evolving connection between sensing and the meaning of what was sensed is central to its operation in the real world. The establishment of such a connection is inseparable from the ability of the system to act, since grounded meaning can only be achieved through action, i.e. the ability of the system to experience the world while interacting with it. In this context, the terms of Physical and Social Symbol Grounding have emerged to name the processes of connecting symbols to real world objects by a single agent (Physical Symbol Grounding), and for establishing shared meaning in populations of agents (Social Symbol Grounding). Another relevant concept is of Sensory-Motor Contingencies that is based on the assumption that the complex modes of social interaction are grounded in basic sensorimotor interaction patterns. This project aims to explore the grounding of meaning in interactive systems through bottom-up and top-down processes. Grounding of meaning should grow from autonomously establishing meaning through sensory-motor interactions of systems with different level of complexity to establishing of shared understanding between an artificial agent (system) and a human. The explorations should result in a framework for design of grounded interactive systems. This project provides the opportunity for PhD candidates to gain and combine expertise in technology and human development. References: https://ai.vub.ac.be/sites/default/files/steels-08e.pdf

  3. Serious Gaming and Medical Simulation. Surgeons/nurses/neonatal caregivers and other hospital staff practice their skills on simulators, actors and manikins, where they apply and refine the procedural knowledge that they learnt in another (e.g. classroom) setting. Serious games have been introduced to bridge this transfer gap; however as virtual simulators they too are often highly serious and more a training than a learning tool, and therefore may not reach their full potential. This project explores the potential for play as a way to learn optimal strategies and engender attitude change of the physician in training, in order to improve patient safety. The relationship between fantasy play and serious simulation in a hospital setting is scrutinized and through the development of game prototypes tested and turned into game design guidelines for games for health. The TU/e DI group has excellent working relations with neonoatologists at MMC hospital, Philips X-ray, gynaecoloists at VMK hospital and the Catharina Hospital, one of the top cardiac centers of the Netherlands.

  4. Making sense of smart things. A future where invisible technologies seamlessly support people’s daily activities has been proposed in paradigms such as Ubiquitous Computing, Pervasive Computing, and Ambient Intelligence. After decades of research, smart things have become commercially available and are being adopted into people’s homes. In the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, more than 900 companies showcased smart products, services, and technologies. The market for these smart things is predicted by International Data Corporation (IDC) to exceed US$ 7 trillion by 2020. However, several long-standing challenges for the smart systems remain unresolved. One such challenge is the “intelligibility” problem (Bellotti and Edwards, 2001): how people can understand smart systems, and vice versa. Time and time again, studies of people living in smart environments revealed mutual misunderstanding — smart things fail to decipher intents behind sensed user behaviours, and people fail to understand the reasoning behind actions taken by smart things. Design, as defined by Klaus Krippendorff (1989), "is making sense (of things)". In this research, we will focus on "making sense of smart things": how to design for interaction with systems of smart thing, so that people can better communicate their intents to the systems, and the systems can better express their "intelligence" to the people --- enabling mutual understanding and possibly even empathy. We are looking for a Ph.D. candidate with background in machine learning, data visualization, user experience design, and related fields.

  5. A Toolkit to Support Design Thinking for Children. The main objective of the project is to develop a learning and technological toolkit to support children to use and develop their creativity and innovation skills during their primary school years. The toolkit will equip children with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes pertaining to design thinking, it will familiarize them with concepts, tools, as well as the reflective mentality, and the dynamic process and practice of design thinking. Particular emphasis will be put on the development and application of communication and collaboration skills. The project will combine a design based learning approach with digital toolkits to support children in developing their creative skills. The PhD will conduct design research in diverse solutions are created and examined to verify the manner in which the creative skills of the children are being developed. Requirements for candidates: The Phd candidate should have strong design skills and some experience of empirical research approaches.

  6. Apps as Research Probes. This project aims to explore the use of massive scale app deployments through app stores as a way to collect data and conduct experiments involving actual users rather than user representatives. Whereas a lot of user centred design research and design research proceed with experiments involving representative users recruited by conventional means (flyers, mail, snowballing, etc.), there is an opportunity to collect data in the field, at real time, and to evolve different studies by launching applications. App evaluation can involve the logging of use data, contextual information collected by sensors, surveying users, etc. Methodological and ethical issues arise. Demographics and organizational requirements put also special requirements for the tool and the approach. Requirements for candidates: Affinity with software development, mobile apps, interaction design

  7. Wearables for posture monitoring and correction. This project aims to develop innovative wearable solutions for posture monitoring. Posture monitoring is important in a few domains: computer workers need to maintain correct ergonomic posture to avoid neck pain and lower back pain. During rehabilitation, correct execution of exercises while maintaining posture is crucial. Posture correction can be vital for workers lifting weights in order to avoid injury. Low back pain can be prevented or even cured by posture correction. Finally posture can be an indicator of healing after injury in order to enable evidence based interventions by physicians. Depending on which pat of the body we wish to monitor, the challenges of precise and accurate posture monitoring vary. It appears that many commercial products that claim to monitor posture often provide inaccurate measures, that provide false notifications too often, thus lacking the ability to positively influence people’s behaviour. A suitable design of such a system should combine a) anatomically correct placement of sensors and modelling posture b) a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing garment or other wearable that can be worn throughout the day c) the design of suitable motivational approach that will be effective in changing people’s posture related behaviour. The project integrates challenges in combining sensors with wearables, writing simple software applications, and designing and evaluating motivational approaches tht will be implemented by the hardware-software combination. Requirements for candidates: Affinity with designing wearables, arduino programming. Experience with textile electronics is an added bonus.

  8. Crowdsourcing design. Crowdsourcing can be loosely defined as a task that can given to a large, anonymous group of users, connected through the Internet and the users' aggregated response constitutes a solution to the task. Crowdsourcing has been applied from its very beginning to a plethora of creative industries; designing clothes [Threadless]; designing graphics [99designs]; photography and animation [iStockphoto]. In spite of the all the existing services, crowdsourcing is still in its infancy. In this project you will be asked to explore ways in which crowdsourcing can support designers and design work. Such a project raises several research questions: what part of designer's work can be crowdsourced? How much of the designer's context is necessary for crowdworkers to be able to perform the requested tasks? What are the privacy concerns and how can they be addressed? The project shall proceed followin an action research approach, designing, developing and deploying a platform for crowdsourcing, and using it in the context of design projects. Requirements for candidates: Affinity with software development, online communities/social media, interaction design is required.

  9. Designing interaction resources for everyday practitioners. This research explores the value of designing computational artifacts that are resources for of everyday practices. The research builds on our previous studies of everyday practices such as family life, amateur repair, sustainable DIY, hobbyists, Steampunk, and skateboarding for what these practices can tell us about design and, in particular, the design of technologies. We describe our understanding of design through this research as everyday design. Generally, we argue that everyone is a designer. Within this view, design is ongoing in the creative use and reuse of design artifacts. Design is comprised of a great multiplicity of practices that share in their need to manipulate their designed worlds to improve fit and quality through ongoing transformations and adaptations, yet what drives each practice and how they are carried out is unique and diverse. The project aims to explore the characteristics and implications of this direction for HCI and interaction design. A particular focus of the project will include the need for designers to shift attention to technologies as materials (or objects) within practices rather than configurations of functions and interfaces. In particular, the PhD student will conduct design research that will advance the following concepts: the design of technological objects as resources for practitioners; the simplification or minimization of interaction to fit competences and motivations; and the assessment of design outcomes for their interpretive potential by everyday practitioners as much as their promised utility.

  10. Data-driven design for engaging children in playful sports. In this project we will examine how to motivate children to engage in sport-like activities by having children experience them as being more as playlike activities. We will examine how to adjust the interactive behaviour of the objects or environment in a sports hall, to the physical play behaviour of the children. We will examine how to gather data and translate this into meaningful playful interactions of the overall system of the children and the interactive environment. The PhD will follow a design research approach developing multiple concepts with input from diverse stakeholders such as children, sports teachers and people from industry. Furthermore, the PhD needs to develop a model for how to gather meaningful interpretations from the data gathered through the system. The project builds on previous design research projects where diverse playful solutions fro motivating children to be physically active were created. Candidates for this project should have a strong background in computer science, data science or related subjects, with affinity for design and expertise in working with designers. They should also have a background in empirical research methods with expertise in working independently on a research subject.

  11. Social things for well-being. We explore the impact of social networks, internet of things, augmented reality and new lighting and display technologies in on the modern society, the impact of the bottom-up power and the much flattened structure of the social media on societal transformations, the impact of the social and systematic perspective of intelligent systems, products and related services on industrial design, and in turn, the possible impact of industrial design on these on-going societal and technical changes. Application-wise the design research on social computing and internet of things can be integrated with health and care. We are interested in the issues and opportunities of applying new material and technologies in lighting, displays, wearables and mobile devices for social wellbeing, for example designing connected environments in which the inhabitants are empowered by wearable senses and smart things for social bounding, and designing interactive art installations that augment architecture, landscape and public arts with digital and social media in public spaces for social connectedness and inclusion.

More about research at ID, TU/e: http://wiki.id.tue.nl/CSC/ResearchAtID

More about PhD programs at ID, TU/e: http://wiki.id.tue.nl/CSC/PhDProgramsAtID

More about the requirements in applying the Scholarship from China Scholarship Council (CSC) for Chinese PhD candidates: http://www.csc.edu.cn/Chuguo/4da22db7e3924cdba487d4c8f403efa0.shtml and http://www.csc.edu.cn/Chuguo/87a7f72abd1e4dffb3b9ddcea536ff87.shtml

If you are interested in applying, please first address your interest to dr. Jun Hu: j.hu@tue.nl , and later prepare the following documents:

  1. Curriculum Vitae
  2. Research plan according to one of the aforementioned topics (no more than 4-pages of A4 in English, Including: Background, Objectives and Research questions, Methodology, Planning, Expected results, Feasibility, Future Plan after your PhD, and References).
  3. Motivation letter (no more than 1-page A4).
  4. Copy of Master Degree (if available, or a letter from your university to prove that you are expected to graduate in due time).
  5. Letter of recommendation from your supervisor at the home university.
  6. Any indication of your English level (IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL 95, or equivalent) according to the requirements from CSC. See http://wiki.id.tue.nl/CSC/RequirementsCSC (in Chinese, from year 2015. It will soon be updated for 2016)

  7. If you have a design or art background, portfolio of your design or art work.

Please notice the deadlines: February 15, 2016 at TU/e; Deadline for applying at CSC will be April 5, 2016. For a better support for your application, we would encourage you to apply as early as possible.

JunHu: CSC/2016 (last edited 2016-11-11 13:55:54 by JunHu)