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Robotic manipulation of objects with physics-based reasoning and learning


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Saturday 10 June 2023
Project start date
Sunday 1 October 2023
Country eligibility
International (open to all nationalities, including the UK)
Source of funding
University of Leeds
Dr Mehmet Dogar
School of Computing
Research groups/institutes
Artificial Intelligence
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

This project focuses on intelligent robotic object manipulation. Consider the example of packing different items into a box in a warehouse to ship the box to a customer. To perform this, a robot would need to pick and insert the items into the box one by one, while nudging, pushing and squeezing objects, to achieve a tight packing. The robot would need to plan and control its actions, as well as use sensors to estimate the positions and deformations of the objects in the box.<br /> <br /> The dominant approach to object manipulation in the literature is geometry-based, where the world is represented using shapes and configurations only. While this simplifies planning and control, it also results in robots that are extremely limited in their skills. The central vision of this project is to go beyond that, by enabling robots to reason about, plan in, and control the full physics of the world. This has the potential to transform robots' object manipulation skills and our lives, because robots will be able to perform a much diverse variety of object manipulation skills applicable to manufacturing, assembly, and services.<br /> <br /> This project will create fundamental planning, learning, control, and perception algorithms. However, this project will also target a particular application area: picking and packing of objects for warehouse automation. With the rapid advance of e-commerce over the past decade, there is a pressing need to have efficient warehouse automation systems, in the UK and the world. However, existing robotic systems do not have physics-based reasoning, which limits their applications drastically. The physics-based picking and packing approach that we propose will enable robots to reach into cluttered bins/shelves/bags, pushing, nudging, and squeezing arbitrary objects to search and retrieve a particular object or to pack multiple objects tightly for shipping --- skills that do not exist in any current system.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>The project will be supervised by Dr Mehmet Dogar. Before joining Leeds, Dr Dogar was a postdoctoral researcher at Massachusetts Intitute of Technology (MIT) working on robotic manipulation of objects. He received his PhD at the Robotics Intitute at Carnegie Mellon University.&nbsp;</p> <p>Information about <a href="">Dr Mehmet Dogar</a>, his research interests, publications, and his group&rsquo;s recent work, can be found on his webpage.</p> <p>This PhD project will be part of a recent project grant awarded to Dr Dogar. This project is funded by EPSRC by <strong>&pound;1.2 Million</strong>&nbsp;to create the world-leading warehouse robotic systems here in UK. You can see the details of this grant here:&nbsp;<a href="">EPSRC Fellowship Grant EP/V052659/1</a></p> <p>The project also has excellent international partners (please see the above project link for the list of partners). The student working on this project will have the opportunity to collaborate with these partners and pay research visits to their sites.</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the Planned Course of Study section that you are applying for <em><strong>PhD Computing FT</strong></em> and in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is <em><strong>Robotic manipulation of objects with physics-based reasoning and learning</strong></em>&nbsp;as well as&nbsp;<a href="">Dr Mehmet Dogar</a> as your proposed supervisor.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">Applications will be considered on an ongoing basis. &nbsp;Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the supervisors for an informal discussion before making a formal application. &nbsp;We also advise that you apply at the earliest opportunity as the application and selection process may close early, should we receive a sufficient number of applications or that a suitable candidate is appointed.</p> <p>Please note that you must provide the following documents in support of your application by the closing date of 10 June 2023:</p> <ul> <li>Full Transcripts of all degree study or if in final year of study, full transcripts to date</li> <li>Personal Statement outlining your interest in the project</li> <li>CV</li> <li>Funding information:&nbsp; School of Computing (EPSRC Fellowship Grant EP/V052659/1)</li> </ul>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The criteria for entry for some research degrees may be higher, for example, several faculties, also require a Masters degree. Applicants are advised to check with the relevant School prior to making an application. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Graduate School prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.5 overall with at least 6.5 in writing and at least 6.0 in reading, listening and speaking or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p class="MsoNoSpacing">A highly competitive School of Computing Studentship, in support of the&nbsp;<a href="">EPSRC Fellowship Grant EP/V052659/1</a>, consisting of the award of fees at the UK fee rate (currently &pound;4,596 for session 2022/23) or Non-UK fee rate of &pound;26,500 with a maintenance grant (currently &pound;17,668 for session 2022/23) for 3.5 years.</p> <p>This opportunity is open to all applicants. All candidates will be placed into the School of Computing Studentship Competition and selection is based on academic merit.<br /> <br /> <strong>Important:&nbsp;</strong> Any costs associated with your arrival at the University of Leeds to start your PhD including flights, immigration health surcharge/medical insurance and Visa costs are <strong>not </strong>covered under this studentship.</p> <p>Please refer to the&nbsp;<a href="">UKCISA</a>&nbsp;website for&nbsp;information regarding Fee Status for Non-UK Nationals.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information about this project, please contact Dr Mehmet Dogar<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> <p>For further information about your application, please contact Doctoral College Admissions<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p>