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Augmented and Virtual Reality for Industrial Applications

Applications are invited for up to four PhD fellowships/scholarships at Graduate School of Natural Sciences, Aarhus University, Denmark, within the Computer Science programme. The positions are available from 1 November 2020 or later.

Augmented and Virtual Reality for Industrial Applications

Research area and project description:
The Danish manufacturing industry is experiencing an increasing need for digital assistance to effectively support a rapidly shifting workforce in a wide variety of tasks and continuously evolving roles. Explored approaches range from digital step-by-step instructions for dis-/assembly, maintenance and quality assurance of novel and custom-made products, to AR-based remote assistance solutions for troubleshooting of breakdowns and supervision of production sites abroad, to modern training methods based on virtual simulations, to supporting genuine collaboration between human workers an industrial robots in production lines.

Aarhus University is heading a Work Package on Augmented and Virtual Reality research for such industrial application as a member of the Manufacturing Academy of Denmark (MADE), which is supported by the Innovation Fund Denmark. Watch this video (in Danish) to see how Augmented Reality plays a central role in the vision of Industry 4.0.

The advertised PhD positions involve the following four research projects:

AR-based assistance tools for industrial applications (collaboration with Velux A/S and LEGO System A/S)
It is the aim of this PhD project to develop and evaluate concepts and interactive prototypes based on Augmented Reality, to address real-world problems and constraints in industrial scenarios. For example, to provide step by step instructions for complex assembly and maintenance tasks through AR interfaces, such as mobile display overlays (e.g., tablets and smartphones), projection mapping (e.g., laser or traditional projectors), or smart glasses (e.g., Hololens).

In particular, the PhD candidate should address the following challenges:

  • Extraction, composition and presentation of step-by-step instructions through AR
  • Object and activity recognition (e.g., through Machine Learning) to monitor the state of a workpiece during assembly, identify critical work steps based on hand and body postures, or infer the state of tools being used, etc.
  • Design of novel interaction techniques for AR-based assistance tools

Supporting genuine collaboration between humans and industrial robots through AR (collaboration with LEGO System A/S and KUKA AG)
This PhD project involves the development of approaches that enable natural human-robot interaction and genuine collaboration with industrial robots. To achieve this, it is critical to support bi-directional communication between both agents (i.e., the operator and the robot), rendering the robot’s intentions intelligible and enabling the worker to negotiate next steps. The worker’s augmented reality interface may be based on a variety of display technologies, such as mobile display overlays (e.g., tablets and smartphones), projection mapping (e.g., laser or traditional projectors), or smart glasses (e.g., Hololens), which should further provide them with task-related information (e.g., step-by-step instructions for an assembly task). The robot on the other hand requires knowledge of the worker’s position in space to ensure safety, which motivates the exploration of new tracking solutions (e.g., RGBD cameras or marker-based tracking, sensing wearables, or sensors installed in the workspace).

In particular, the PhD candidate should address the following challenges:

  • Prediction of the robot’s “intent” (e.g., current status, next planned movement and potential requirements or obstacles) and communication to the worker
  • Definition of task negotiation protocols between the human worker and the robot, e.g., interaction mechanisms that allow bilateral negotiation of task space and workflow
  • Presentation of step-by-step instructions and monitoring of task completion, e.g., for verification of an assembly process

Remote digital assistance based on collaborative AR and VR solutions (collaboration with Vestas A/S)
The focus of this PhD project lies on exploring collaborative VR and AR solutions that allow remote workers to support their on-site colleagues in efficiently troubleshooting breakdowns and taking on unfamiliar tasks. For example, such solutions can empower low-skill workers to troubleshoot complex machinery, thereby reducing the downtime of production plants while minimizing the need to travel for expert technicians. Remote assistance can also address the need for effective remote collaboration brought on by crises, such as Covid19. Development of such approaches requires careful consideration of a variety of factors, such as the reliability of different communication channels and bandwidth, as well as establishment of common workspace awareness and support of view independence. Resulting prototypes may include wearables (e.g., Hololens), mobile displays (e.g., tablets and smartphones), or projection mapping (e.g., laser or traditional projectors), as well as multi-camera setups or specialized imaging sensors (e.g., 360°cam, RGBD camera, laser scanner, remote controlled camera on robot or drone) to share viewpoints or generate full digital twins.

In particular, the PhD candidate should address some of the following challenges:

  • Development of tailorable remote assistance setups involving a variety of cameras (e.g., mobile and stationary cameras for view dependent and independent setups)
  • Design of guidance techniques and approaches for facilitating view independence
  • Exploration of interfaces for more natural communication and 3D interaction, e.g., natural hand gestures for remote guidance and object manipulation, as well as gaze interaction
  • Study of the interplay between procedural AR instructions and remote assistance (e.g., recording remotely guided troubleshooting procedures as instructions for future use)

AR/VR-based education, training and assistance for the industrial workforce (collaboration with Haldor Topsøe A/S and Unity Studios ApS)
It is the aim of this PhD project to develop AR/VR methods and tools that simulate manufacturing systems to accelerate the education of a new or shifting workforce, facilitating effective adoption of new processes and integration of new products. Virtual simulations allow safe and inexpensive training of multiple scenarios in a variety of different environments that might otherwise not be available (e.g., pre-train a technician in selected complex procedures before going into operation in a dangerous or remote environment). These digital assistance tools and simulations may be experienced through a variety of interfaces, e.g., head-mounted displays (e.g., VR with Occulus Rift/HTC Vive, AR with Hololens), projectors, haptic interfaces (e.g., Ultrahaptics), and involve a wide range of input modalities (e.g., controllers, touch, speech, motion tracking). However, there is a lack of long-term studies involving the target group and meaningful tasks, which are needed gain clarify about  the benefits and limitations of these training methods.

In particular, the PhD candidate should address the following challenges:

  • Development of new interaction techniques and effective procedures that support learning and guidance in virtual environments
  • Definition of tasks and evaluation criteria that allow assessment of training and assistance tools for industrial scenarios (e.g., through user studies)
  • Identification of critical factors for the success of such simulations, and profitable use cases

Beyond the project-specific challenges indicated above, the PhD are expected to fulfill the following tasks:

  • Demonstration of part-project objectives through functional prototypes in production facilities
  • Evaluation of concepts/prototypes and presentation of research results in scientific publications

The successful PhD candidates will join our group of MADE researchers and work in close collaboration with Haldor Topsøe A/S, KUKA AG, LEGO Systems A/S, Unity Studios ApS, Velux A/S and Vestas A/S.
What we offer:

  • Work with industry professionals and world-class researchers in the field of Computer Science, and particularly HCI
  • Conduct visionary research using cutting-edge technology
  • Gain teaching experience by supporting relevant courses at the Department of Computer Science
  • Develop new skills, gain knowledge, and meet peers at summer schools, workshops and conferences around the world
  • Experience a change of research environment during a semester abroad

The offered positions entails full time PhD enrolment at Aarhus University, with a 37-hour work week. For candidates with a Master's degree, the PhD salary is determined in accordance with the common academic pay scale at base pay level 4 and includes a pension scheme, as well as health insurance and benefits according to the Danish Maternity, Paternity and Parental Leave Benefit Act. Click here to learn more.

Qualifications and specific competences:
Applicants to the PhD position must have a relevant Master’s degree (e.g., Computer Science, IT Product Development, or similar). Prior experience with computer graphics, computer vision, machine learning, Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality is an advantage.

Place of Employment and Place of Work:
The place of employment is Aarhus University, and the place of work is Department of Computer Science, Åbogade 34, DK-8200 Aarhus N, Denmark.

Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact:

Kaj Grønbæk, Professor, PhD

Department of Computer Science
Aarhus University
Aabogade 34
DK-8200 Aarhus N

Office: Hopper-124

Email: kgronbak@cs.au.dk | Skype: kgronbak
Cell ph: (+45) 2149 5634


Application procedures

Before you apply

Information and attachments:

Please be aware that you must have all relevant appendices, attachments, addresses for referees, etc. ready when you apply, as the entire application must be uploaded to the system in one go.

Documentation of language skills:

The English language requirement at the graduate school is comparable to an “English B level” in the Danish upper secondary school (“gymnasium”).

English language qualifications comparable to an “English B level” are documented by one of the following tests:

  • TOEFL test (internet-based), minimum score: 83. The graduate school does not accept the paper-based test, nor the TOEFL ITP test. Remember to ask the test center to send your test results to Aarhus University in order to enable verification of your test results. Aarhus University’s TOEFL code is 8935.
    Currently, the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition test (available in selected areas) will also be accepted.
  • IELTS (academic) test, minimum average score: 6.5 points/C1 level
    Please note, from 1 June 2020 the Graduate School of Science and Technology has split in two following the split of the faculty. For the two new schools, Graduate School of Natural Sciences and Graduate School of Technical Sciences, the minimum average score requirement for an IELTS test is  6.5 points equivalent of a C1 level. B2 level is no longer accepted.
  • Cambridge English Language Assessment:
    Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency (CPE)
    Cambridge English: Certificate of Advanced English with grade A,B or C (CAE)
    Cambridge English: First Certificate with grade A (FCE)

When to take the test and how to upload the documentation:
The test result must not be more than two years old at the time of application.

The English language test should be taken before applying for admission and uploaded under “language skills documentation” in the online application form.

It is possible to apply for admission before you have taken the test. In this case documentation stating that you have signed up for a test (please state expected submission date) must be uploaded. If the test result is not part of the original application the test result is to be sent to gsns@psys.au.dk no later than one month after the application deadline.

The following applicants are exempted from documenting their English qualifications/taking a test:

  • Applicants with citizenship from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, or one of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden).
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or the United States. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed at a Danish university for which the requirement was English B level at the time of admission. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.

The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

How to apply:

1)      Find the application form:
Go to https://phd.nat.au.dk/for-applicants/apply-here/ - Note, the online application system opens on 1 June 2020.

Choose August 2020 Call with deadline 1 August 2020 at noon (11.59 AM CEST). 

You will be directed to the call, and must choose the programme 'Computer Science'.

2)      Fill in the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Academic background
  • Admission
  • Financing (if any)
  • Study: In the dropdown menu you must choose the project: "Augmented and Virtual Reality for Industrial Applications"
  • Source (how you found out about the call)

Next to some of the information fields you will find a number. Click on the number to get further directions on how to fill in the information field/what information is needed.

3)      Application attachments:
Please be aware that you cannot submit the application if one or several of these documents have not been uploaded.

If you wish to upload more than one document under each section, you must scan/merge all documents into one large PDF file and upload this. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like. Instead you can indicate a URL where the information is available.

All information in the application must be in English or Danish, preferably English. A certified English translation is required for documents written in languages other than English or one of the Scandinavian languages (i.e. Norwegian, Swedish or Danish) languages.    

As a minimum all applications must include (pdf-files only, max. 20 MB, no zip):

  • One reference (template for references)
  • Curriculum vitae,
  • Motivation (max. 1 page)
  • Transcripts, grade point averages (weighted and unweighted), and diploma(s) for both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. If the original documents are not in English or one of the Scandinavian languages (i.e. Norwegian, Swedish or Danish) then copies of the original documents as well as a certified English translation must be attached.    
  • Project description (½-4 pages). For technical reasons, you must upload a project description. When - as here - you apply for a specific project, you may simply copy the project description above, and upload it as a PDF in the application. Please also feel free to describe your own ideas and research plans for this specific project. If you wish to, you can indicate an URL where further information can be found. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like.
  • Documentation of language skills if required.


After submission of the application, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with an application ID, you should use for reference if needed.

The graduate school reserves the right to verify the authenticity of your educational diploma and transcripts:

  • Request additional information to verify an application.
  • Reject the application if it is proven, or if the University has reasonable belief, that the information provided is false or if the applicant refuses to provide the requested information, whether or not an offer has already been made. 
  • For further information on applying, assessment procedures, etc. please see the GSNS Application Guide.

Please note:

  • The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.
  • The project will only be initiated if final funding (from the graduate school/the faculty) is secured.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal background.

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