Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) enables excellent Chinese students to obtain their PhD degrees at TU/e with a 4-year scholarship from the CSC. Students from all Chinese universities are eligible for this program. The program aims to foster long-term research co-operation between Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and Chinese universities. Students who receive a scholarship are provided with a living allowance as prescribed by the Chinese Government for the term of the scholarship, return airfare to the Netherlands by the most economical route, student visa fees and the cost of health insurance for international students.

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.

Expected Background

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.

Research Topics

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 possibilities 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 to 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 strong interest in sound (and music) and preferably has experience in sound design for music or other application domains.

  2. Wearables for Vitality. One of the major problems regarding the long-term health perspective of adult people in developed countries is the fact that many people lead a largely sedentary lifestyle. There is ample evidence that this can lead to (the onset of) chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and/or cardio-vascular problems. This is sedentary lifestyle so deeply embedded in many cultures that many people are not even remotely aware how much they are sitting and what this means for their health. Thanks to the development of recent sensor technology the registration of the actual (lack of-) activities is not so much of a problem; representing the accumulated information to users in a (persuasive) manner that influences daily work-patterns/rituals/etc. definitely is. Although, in theory, the representation of information via commonly used devices (such as smartphones) is definitely possible this project aims at more unobtrusive and persuasive data representation via, for example, integration of data representation into active wearables thus creating awareness of the (lack of) activities not only on a cognitive level but also on a subconscious level allowing a faster and more thorough integration into daily life.

  3. Interactive Machine Learning. As the products becoming intelligent, they will be able to learn our behaviors by connecting all of the piece of data we generated intentionally or unconsciously. With the advanced machine learning technologies, the computers will build artificial models to represent users’ preferences in specific contexts. They will also use the knowledge to predict and execute specific actions when a known user was presented. However, due to lack of understanding on the machines’ learning and reasoning process, it was found that users usually questioned the system’s suggestions and didn’t perceive the smartness. To address this problem, we think that the machines need to be able explicitly express their logics for users to easily figure out where the misunderstanding came from. Based on this ability, the users would be able to tune the functions and collaborate to build real intelligent systems for serving their daily lives better. In this project, we are looking for candidates who are interested at machine learning and interaction design. We’ll study the human behaviors, build interactive prototypes, collect the data in the living labs, and collaborate with machine learning experts to investigate how could we make use of artificial intelligence in creating natural and seamless interactions. As a result, people could play the role to optimize the total performance and enjoy the better services with the truly intelligent system. Requirements for candidates: having basic knowledge of machine learning and affinity with data visualization.

  4. Dynamic interactions on the control. One of the important applications of IoT is automation. When the smart products have the intelligence to learn our behaviors and predict what we might desire, they could do great jobs in minimizing our efforts in setting the suitable environment. In many academic and marketing studies, this automation is much appreciated by many early adaptors. However, it’s also found that people are not always satisfied with the system’s recommendations. In fact, people desire to have control and want a variation in the environment settings, especially when multiple people are involved in the social interactions. It becomes a challenge in providing dynamic interactions to facilitate people and the intelligent system deciding the authority of the control at different situations. Should the machines discuss with the users before triggering any functions? Or do they only need to ask when they don’t have enough confidence on doing the jobs? Human and machines have different kinds of abilities and strengths. For example, people are especially good at patterns recognition, dealing with the unexpected situations, and setting high-level goals. On the contrary, machines are good at repeated tasks, continuously sensing, and handling numerous data. The new IoT technologies facilitate designers to add new possibilities to build a good collaboration between human and machines. We will explore various frameworks of ideas to investigate how to provide a suitable balance of control between human and machines. We are looking for candidates who are interested at IoT and interaction design. Requirements for candidates: having practical experience on interaction design and affinity with Arduino.

  5. Exploring practices of resourcefulness through design. Resourcefulness emerges in (everyday) situations that, to a greater or less extent, deviate from normal practice (Giaccardi et al. 2016). Resourcefulness is not a property of a person or a technology alone. Rather, it is something that emerges from the way they work together (Wakkary and Maestri, 2008). Broadly speaking, resourcefulness exists in the motivation and ability to creatively adjust available means to purpose, as well as a certain allowance of means to place judgments about their ways of use and purpose in the situation at hand. Resourcefulness can therefore be seen as what Schatzki (1996) would call a dispersed practice. While many arguments can be offered about its value for quality of life (inclusiveness, resilience, satisfaction, being in control), little is yet known about the composition and dynamics of this practice, and the ways in which it might be fostered through design. The PhD candidate will conduct design research to explore practices of resourcefulness through the development of a series of artefacts, their deployment and reflection on both development and effects in everyday practice. The aim is to work towards enriched understanding of resourcefulness in everyday life as well as a set of guidelines to design systems, products and related services that facilitate it. Candidate requirements: experience in interaction design and prototyping, preferably experience with field deployment studies.

  6. Sleeping, health, bedroom climates and energy. Since a few decades, the Netherlands, like other countries in moderate climates is seeing a rising norm to mechanically heat bedrooms during the night. The heating of bedrooms is facilitated by a spreading of gas central heating, but thrives on more than technological developments alone. Rationales underlying the trend of sleeping-in-a-heated-space relate in part to rising standards of comfort, but also to health. Health professionals recommend, and actively promote bedroom temperatures that imply mechanical heating in bedrooms during times of colder weather. However, other studies find that sleeping in a heated room may have adverse health effects, and the energy implications of heating bedrooms – and often by default the entire house – at night are significant. In this PhD project, the researcher works at the contested touching points of sleep, health and bedroom climate (in the broad sense). This includes materially exploring relations between sleep, health and bedroom climates, as well as developing feasible alternatives to centrally heated bedrooms and homes during times of sleep. Requirements for candidates: experience in interaction design and prototyping, preferably experience with field deployment studies.

  7. Seamless interaction in everyday life. Smartphones and tablets are penetrating all facets of everyday life. The functionalities of these devices have made our lives arguably easier while at the same time they made us more distracted from our direct surroundings. This project will rethink and redesign the way we interact with the digital world. Current devices are usually designed to be operated with focused attention, barely leaving any attention to be devoted elsewhere. Recently, such systems have also begun to involve autonomous system behaviour that takes place outside the user’s behest. In everyday life, people perform actions with varying levels of attention. For example, we routinely wash our hands in our periphery of attention while focusing on having a conversation, or we might consciously focus on washing our hands if trying to remove paint from them. Interactive systems currently cover only two extreme ends of a full spectrum of human attention abilities. With computing technology becoming ubiquitously present, the need increases to seamlessly fit interactions with technology into everyday routines. This project will explore how to design interfaces that can be operated at varied levels of attention. Additionally, it will explore interactions that can shift between focused attention, periphery of attention and autonomous system behaviour. The project will focus on making prototypes which can be used by people in their home environment. These prototypes should make everyday interactions with technology more seamlessly embedded in people’s everyday routines.

  8. Posture monitoring and posture correction technologies can be useful in supporting physical therapy, e.g., for motor control training in musculoskeletal disorders, such as shoulder, neck, or low back pain, as well as for arm-hand training after stroke or spinal cord injury. Among the various technological options for posture monitoring, wearable systems offer potential advantages regarding mobility, use in different contexts and potentially sustained tracking in daily life. Posture monitoring can support both prevention and revalidation when combined with motor learning and behavior change interventions.This PhD will continue a successful track of research in wearable systems to support posture monitoring and rehabilitation, proceed through an iteration of design innovations that are conceived, executed and evaluated in collaboration with clinical expert, making contrutions in a number of directions on the following list:

    • Embedding textile electronics in current solutions to enhance comfort, wearability and aesthetics
    • Addressing a wider user group (e.g. extending to different ages, genders, and pathologies)
    • Combining behavior change strategies to support tailoring and personalization of feedback in order to support rehabilitation and enhance compliance by patients
    • Seeking clinical validation of wearables as tools to support rehabilitation for specific pathologies
    • Enhancing wearables that are supported by interactive applications with actuation to enable new forms of feedback for patients
    • Allowing customization and end-user configuration of solutions presented
    • Supporting home training rehabilitation scenarios
    • Seeking generalizable solutions and methods for using wearables in a rehabilitation and prevention context.
    • Studying innovation processes regarding the integration of wearables use in current clinical practices
    • Introducing intelligent approaches to feedback personalization and adaptation
  9. Design and implement novel Crowdsourcing Systems. Crowdsourcing can be loosely defined as a task that can be given to a large, anonymous group of users, connected through the Internet and the users' aggregated response constitutes a solution to the task. Commercial examples include: Amazon Mechanical Turk, Google Surveys, UsabilityHub and Zhubajie, just to mention few. Crowdsourcing has been applied from its very beginning to a plethora of creative industries; designing clothes; designing graphics; photography and animation. 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 following 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.

  10. Complex Adaptive Systems. Industrial Design is not just about individuals interacting with isolated devices. People act in social networks via a wide variety of social media and mobile internet platforms and the internet of things (IoT). People, communities and platforms co-evolve. No single stakeholder has full control over these systems, their evolution or their behavior (Miller & Page 2009). Yet it is important that designers participate in, or even lead the design and evolution of these systems, addressing values, feasibility, usability and aesthetics, even before these systems are in operation. The goal of the project is to import existing knowledge from the COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS community into the disciple of INDUSTRIAL DESIGN. The role of designers is twofold: to give form to new products which satisfy practical needs and which are satisfying with respect to function, comfort, aesthetics and sustainability. At the same time designers use emerging technologies and semiotic tools to tell messages about what is going on in the world and point to new possibilities. The work of the present project falls in the latter category. The three cornerstones of contemporary complexity theory are: emergence, transition, and resilience. The research area is considered both societally relevant and promising. The societal relevance is related to the fact that more and more man-made systems operate at a global scale. Epidemics, economic growth, polution and biological diversity can no longer be considered local problems. Both the effect scale (global instead of local) and the time scale (seconds instead of weeks) are changed by the unprecedented growth of digital connectivity (telegraph, telephone, wireless, Internet, Internet of things). The candidate is expected to address one of the following quesitons:

    • How can we create artifacts, for example smart garments, that tell in a semiotic way that this new world based on complexity is emerging?
    • How can we create tools, based on simulation which are useful as TOOLS FOR DESIGNERS? Pure simulations are not enough: in the same way as convolution matrixes and calculus of gradient are hidden in Photoshop, we need new tools where simulations of e.g. cellular automata are hidden behind attractive user-interfaces.
  11. Social internet of 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.

  12. Shared control for autonomous driving. One trend in the development of autonomous driving is to take the human completely out-of-the-loop. However, we believe that there are good grounds to keep the human in the loop, at some level of control. One reason to do so is that the technology may not be flexible enough to always behave according to the human needs and preferences (which may vary across situations). For that reason, we need to develop a way to enable the occupant and the automated driving system to enter into a dialogue. The aim of this project to explore relevant use cases and to develop and evaluate the interface supporting the human-system dialogue. Profile: Industrial design + affinity with technology (programming and electronics)

  13. Remote operation for autonomous driving. Industry is putting much effort into driving automation. However, full automation is expected still to take considerable time. In the meantime, we see partial/conditional automation appear on the road (e.g. automation on the highway, but not in urban areas). This requires occupants to take-over control (take the driver role again) when the automation runs into its boundaries. But this requirement interferes with one of the claimed benefits for automated driving (mobility for all), as it excludes elderly from automated driving. In this project we want to investigate the feasibility of remote operation in case the operator needs to take over control if the system runs into its limitations. The work serves two purposes: (1) to develop a tool for research so that non-automated vehicles can be remotely operated, giving occupants and bystanders the impression that the vehicle is an autonomous vehicle. (2) To investigate the feasibility of remote operation as a fallback option for elderly users of an autonomous vehicle. Profile: Engineering background.

Application Procedure

If you are interested in applying, please first address your interest to dr. Jun Hu: j.hu@tue.nl as early as possible for questions and guidance, 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 (http://www.csc.edu.cn/) and TU/e.

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


Please notice the deadlines: February 1, 2017 at TU/e; Deadline for applying at CSC is April 5, 2017 (http://www.csc.edu.cn/article/709). For a better support for your application, we would encourage you to apply as early as possible.

For more information

For more information, please contact dr. Jun Hu: j.hu@tue.nl

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

JunHu: CSC/2017 (last edited 2017-10-16 15:07:25 by JunHu)