PhD Position in Robotics: Lifelong collaborative human-computer navigation in dynamic environments

 KU Leuven  Leuven
Technology Campus Diepenbeek, located in the triangle Leuven - Eindhoven - Aachen, is an internationally oriented campus of the University of Leuven undertaking education, research, and rendering services in Engineering. Technology Campus Diepenbeek aims at creating an environment in which students and professors alike can develop themselves by experiencing these core activities, both locally and internationally.

This PhD position is embedded within the research group ACRO (Automation Centre research and training). ACRO's main research focus is on smart human-centered robotics using computer vision. Our research lies at the intersection of autonomous robots, human-robot interaction and decision-making based on uncertain sensors. The group's laboratory is located in the Technology Centre, Diepenbeek, Wetenschapspark 27 at walking distance from the main campus where all didactical tasks will take place. The lab is well equipped with several industrial robots, state-of-the-art sensors and mobile robots. ACRO closely collaborates with the robotics and control groups in Leuven.


Robots are entering our every-day life at home, in public and at work. In the near future, these robots will team up with humans to perform tasks together. This brings up important research challenges such as how to share autonomy between humans and robots in collaborative tasks, how to communicate or estimate each other’s intentions and preferences, how to develop informative interfaces, which representations to adopt to appropriately model the world and other agents' beliefs, how to inspire mutual trust, etc. For this to happen robustly and in the desired way, various parts of the required knowledge may have to be learned through human-robot interaction, and should be adapted life-long.

ACRO, part of the University of Leuven's robotics group (Department of Mechanical Engineering), has gained substantial expertise in intention estimation and shared human-computer control for wheelchair driving through various EU projects such as FP7 RADHAR, FP6 Movement, and FP6 Maia. Within this PhD project you will focus on advanced decision making under uncertainty for lifelong shared autonomy. Based on state-of-the-art 3D sensors, the robot's local environment will be observed, and intentions of dynamic objects around the robot will be estimated. This information will be combined with the driver’s steering signals to provide safe and intuitive navigation assistance. A high Technology Readiness Level will be pursued, supported by in-depth user studies.

  • You have a master's degree in engineering (mechatronics, robotics, mechanics, computer science or related fields) or equivalent.
  • You have the required critical attitude and perseverance to participate in research (projects), to write scientific papers and reports and to work towards a PhD degree.
  • You have the ability to work independently and pro-actively.
  • You have an analytic mind, you are precise and result driven.
  • You are enthusiastic, curious and creative, with resourceful ideas and the ambition to identify research problems, to experiment with new concepts and approaches to solve these problems in a transparent way adhering to scientific methodology and integrity, and to search for improvements with an eye for detail and practical implementation.
  • You are proficient in English and have excellent oral and written communication skills in order to work on technical reports and papers and to interact with the rest of the team.
Within this PhD project, you will develop, implement and experiment with various strategies for joint human-computer navigation in dynamic environments.
Interest or expertise in state estimation, machine learning and decision making is strongly recommended. Proficiency in writing code (C/C++, Python, Matlab, ...) and its implementation on real hardware (debugging) is very much welcomed. Furthermore, through this PhD we seek to understand and address the requirements necessary to increase the Technological Readiness Level of our shared autonomy research. Therefore, an eye for detail and insight in the implications of design choices on later commercialisation issues (required sensors, computational power, human-robot interfaces, integration with commercially available hardware) will be required.

Applications (electronic only) should contain:
  • a motivation letter describing research interests and goals,
  • a C.V. (please include: your Nationality for visa requirements, Date of Birth, your English level, scientific publications if any, transcripts of records of your BSc. and MSc. degrees (with rankings if available)),
  • names and contact information for at least two referees (letters of recommendation can be included to strengthen further the application),
  • any relevant information for proving the experience of the candidate and its good fit with the PhD project.
Application deadline: the evaluation of the candidates starts immediately and will continue until the position is filled.


We offer full-time employment as a doctoral student starting January 1, 2017 (or later) for a period of one year with renewal after positive evaluation. In addition you are required to start with the University's Doctoral School program and to supervise students during the lab/exercise sessions of the Bachelor and/or Master in Engineering Technology.

How to apply:
You can apply for this job no later than February 28, 2017 via the online application tool.
Send application to
For more information please contact Prof. Eric Demeester, tel.: +32 11 27 88 15 , mail:
While applying for the job please refer to jobvector and use the following reference number: BAP-2016-623

About KU Leuven

KU Leuven is an ambitious, international and research-oriented university. Internally, the university tries to maintain a balance between the power of the big ship and the flotilla of small, mobile, independent vessels of which it is composed. KU Leuven is home to a lot of creative, young and academic talent. As a leading university in Europe, it is looking for staff who can think outside the box.

More about KU Leuven

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