PhD in Haptic Skins for Robot Touch Sensing

Research / Academic

Visual robot perception has grown tremendously in the last ten years. Artificial neural networks allow to reliably classify objects and segment structures from RGB images. Moreover, they allow for 3D pose estimation for robot navigation and manipulation in partially structured/unstructured environments. However, vision alone is not sufficient. Versatile interaction with unstructured environments requires a new generation of robots fully exploiting also touch and proprioception (perception of own movement and associated effort). Combining complementary touch and vision information leads to a better world interpretation. Touch sense enables the 3D modeling of unseen parts of the environment as well as object mass, inertia, and friction estimation. To make this possible, new generation intelligent haptic skins need to be developed. The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) combined with visuo-tactile sensing will improve robot decision making, bringing a robotic arm's motions and behavior closer to human capabilities.

This project is sponsored by the Eindhoven Artificial Intelligence Systems Institute (EAISI).

I.Touch2See Project

The project I.Touch2See involves four departments of the TU/e (Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Mathematics & Computer Science, and Industrial Engineering & Innoviation Sciences), collaborating to develop groundbreaking robotics technologies to improve robotic perception for manipulation in unstructured enviroments. The PhD student will have ample opportunities for interaction within the project's principal investigators and the other 2 PhD students involved in the project.

Your duties

As a PhD researcher from the Integrated Circuits group, you will focus on developing haptic skins from hardware perspective, to enable a new concept of robot touch sensing. Flexible Electronics will be used to fabricate lightweight distributed thin-film force sensors on a plastic substrate. You will then design a dedicated Silicon Integrated Chip (Si-IC) to readout the raw signals generated by the haptic skin. The Si-IC will also integrate Artificial Intelligence functionalities (on hardware) to enable event-driven tactile sensing and low-latency feature extraction, prior signal digitalization. This knowledge will be then utilized in combination with robot visual and proprioception sensing by two fellow PhD researchers in your team, to create a 3D scene representation of the real world, estimating 3D shape and dynamical properties (friction, stiffness, mass, ...) of objects present in the environment.

Your job will be to investigate new research opportunities merging Artificial Intelligence with Microelectronics in the field of robotics. More in the specific, your main tasks will be:

  • Design of the haptic skin and the Si-IC readout electronics;
  • Develop prototypes for haptic skin characterizations and its use in real application scenario;
  • Generation of training data (ground truth) for touch sensing;
  • Dissemination of the results of your research in international and peer-reviewed journals and conferences;  
  • Get involved in educational tasks such as the supervision of Master/Bachelor students and internships;
  • Writing a dissertation based on the research outcome and successfully defending it.


We are looking for a candidate who meets at least some of the following requirements:

  • You are a talented and enthusiastic young researcher.
  • You hold a MSc degree in Electrical Engineering or related field.
  • You have a strong background in Integrated Circuit (IC) design.
  • You have knowledge of machine learning algorithms, neural and/or Bayesian networks.
  • You have good programming skills (preferably Python or MATLAB).
  • Previous knowledge of robot dynamics and control is a plus
  • You have good communication skills and can work in a multidisciplinary team.

You will need to have a good proficiency in spoken and written English; knowledge of Dutch is not required.

Salary Benefits:

  • A meaningful job in a dynamic and ambitious university with the possibility to present your work at international conferences.
  • A full-time employment for four years, with an intermediate evaluation (go/no-go) after nine months.
  • To develop your teaching skills, you will spend 10% of your employment on teaching tasks.
  • To support you during your PhD and to prepare you for the rest of your career, you will make a Training and Supervision plan and you will have free access to a personal development program for PhD students (PROOF program).
  • A gross monthly salary and benefits (such as a pension scheme, pregnancy and maternity leave, partially paid parental leave) in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement for Dutch Universities.
  • Additionally, an annual holiday allowance of 8% of the yearly salary, plus a year-end allowance of 8.3% of the annual salary.
  • Should you come from abroad and comply with certain conditions, you can make use of the so-called '30% facility', which permits you not to pay tax on 30% of your salary.
  • A broad package of fringe benefits, including an excellent technical infrastructure, moving expenses, and savings schemes.
  • Family-friendly initiatives are in place, such as an international spouse program, and excellent on-campus children day care and sports facilities.
Work Hours:

38 hours per week


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