PhD Studentship: Augmented reality support for conversational programming in smart environments

University of Sussex - Informatics

A PhD position is available for research on how Augmented Reality (AR) technologies can support speech-based programming for smart environments. Under the supervision of Dr Kate Howland and Prof Judith Good, this doctoral research will build on the EPSRC-funded CONVER-SE project by examining how AR can better allow end-users to understand, debug and change the rules defining smart environments behaviours using conversational interfaces. The focus is on support for high-level trigger-action rules (e.g. 'If someone enters hallway, turn on light', 'when everyone leaves the building, turn off any music playing').

Whilst the latest generation of voice user interfaces now provide reasonable support for triggering existing rules, there is little support for querying and changing rules through voice. There is potential to make end-user programming more intuitive and accessible through conversational interfaces, but there are also many challenges with programming through speech, including ordering restrictions, poor visibility and hidden links between entities. AR has potential to mitigate these issues without taking attention away from the environment.

The high-level research question to be addressed is: How can augmented reality support end-users in understanding and authoring rules for smart environment behaviours through speech-based conversational exchanges? The successful candidate will be actively involved in choosing an appropriate application area and user group in which to explore the research questions. For example, the research could focus on end-users in domestic environments, or domain experts in an industrial or heritage context. Within the chosen application area, the research will examine the context to define requirements, and explore how AR can support conversational programming. Approaches to be explored include providing speech prompts, overlaying currently invisible information about rules and behaviours, supporting disambiguation and providing graphical representations of code.

Type of award

Postgraduate Research, International, Directly Funded.

Award amount

£14,777 tax free stipend plus UK/EU fees waiver.


You will have, or will be about to obtain a 1st or 2:1 UK Bachelor's, or an MSc degree, or equivalent, in a relevant subject. Applicants with significant relevant non-academic experience are also encouraged to apply.

In addition, applicants should have good programming skills in Java or similar object-oriented language(s), the ability to quickly learn to use new hardware and software platforms, and the ability to work independently and be self-motivated.

Experience of conducting interviews, running user studies and of user interface design is desirable, as is previous involvement in end-user/novice programming studies.

The Scholarship includes a three year stipend at a standard rate and, in addition, fees at the UK/EU rate. Since the scholarship only covers fees at the UK/EU rate any overseas applicants are kindly requested to state in their application how they propose to cover the difference between UK/EU and overseas fees (for more details visit:

Application procedure

Please apply for a PhD in Informatics via the University of Sussex postgraduate application system ( Include a brief statement of your scientific interests and skills/experience for the mandatory "research proposal" section, including how they relate to this project (maximum two pages). Indicate Dr Kate Howland as your preferred advisor and clearly state the title of the studentship in the finance section.

Contact details

Please email Dr Kate Howland:

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