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CSC-TU/e Scholarship 2014: PhD in “Creating intelligent systems, products and related services in a societal context”

Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) has an agreement with the China Scholarship Council (CSC), which enables excellent Chinese students to finish their PhD degrees at TU/e with a 4-year scholarship from the CSC. Students from all Chinese universities are eligible for this program.

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The department of Industrial Design (ID) of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is located in a highly industrialized region, known as ‘Brainport’. This region is internationally recognized as a top technology area with a special focus on the integration of design and technology. The department was established in close collaboration with the technological industry, and, because of this, focuses its research on the Design of Intelligent Systems, Products and related Services in a societal context. With these intelligent systems it aims at offering new, breakthrough possibilities leading to societal transformations.

Innovative solutions today increasingly address a complex web in which products, services, technologies and user needs are interwoven. This in turn means that innovation is increasingly dependent on agreements within larger groups of stakeholders. Companies can no longer rely solely on technology breakthroughs and incremental product development. Effective differentiation and real added value for the consumer are achieved by incorporating end-user insights in product innovation. This takes on an added significance when designing solutions for the emerging connected, digitally enabled world.

Products and services are increasingly overlapping, everyday products are more intelligent and adaptive, and the focus is on ‘systems’ rather than stand-alone devices. Additionally, user needs are evolving over time. Maintaining simplicity and understanding the user in such a landscape becomes a challenge. The need to be connected and the need for the customer to be an integral part of the value chain has forced all leading industrial and political bodies to incorporate human values, needs and desires from the very beginning of the innovation process. Innovation in this climate requires social science, design, engineering and business to be brought together in an interdisciplinary way. Industrial design should simultaneously support and catalyze the contributions of all participants, enabling a collaborative exploration of potential futures that can be translated to each partner’s individual perspective.

As society exits the Industrial Age, so the excesses of daily production and consumption patterns are becoming evident. The ‘old-new’ way of doing things, based on productivity and more of everything and faster, was based on the metaphor of the machine. Today, the issue is about relevant and meaningful innovation for society, for cultures and for people. Integration of the Design, Engineering and Social Sciences perspectives will enable us to create intelligent systems, products and related services in a societal context based on ‘human values’ rather than on the ‘efficiency’ criterion that has saturated today’s design.

Applicants to this PhD research shall have a background in industrial design, digital arts and interactive media, human-computer interaction, computer science, information technology or electrical engineering.

The applicants can apply for one of the following topics:

  1. Design for Social Interaction through social computing. we explore the impact of Social networks, Internet, multimedia, and virtual reality on the modern society, the impact of the bottom-up power and the much flattened structure of the social media on societal transformations, the impact of the social and systematic perspective of intelligent systems, products and related services on industrial design, and in turn, the possible impact of industrial design on these on-going societal and technical changes. The primary research areas are social computing, social interaction, linking between the virtual and the physical, the opportunity and challenge brought up by connecting the web of people and the internet of things, and the related cultural and societal issues. This research is expected to contribute to the strategic areas around key societal issues: Energy, Health, and Smart Mobility. The social aspect of the research shall be linked to at least one of these issues. Application-wise the design research on social computing can easily be integrated with health and care by bring in the power of social bounding and support for the new generation of social networks and the ageing society in which the resource of the formal care is limited. In a broader sense we are interested in the issues and opportunities of social wellbeing, for example designing interactive art installations that augment architecture, landscape and public arts with digital and social media for social connectedness and inclusion in public spaces. Possibilities in contributing to other areas shall be considered, for example the environment and energy domain offers many opportunities for exploring crowd shifting techniques and social intelligence in systems design; social networking can provide ad-hoc yet real time information from the drivers and vehicles for a more efficient traffic, for a safer journey, or for a better experience on move.
  2. Interaction Visualization with Particle Interaction Velocimetry. In this research we will develop a ‘Particle Interaction Velocimetry’ (PIV) technique for flow visualization, analysis and design of human-system interactions. Interaction visualization (IV) with PIV will become an established tool for supporting interaction design research. Similar to recent advances in physical modeling instrumentation have facilitated flow visualization to support research. Interaction visualization will be performed using the new PIV technique whereby 3D holographic tracking systems can measure and trace the movements of all system parts as well as visualizing these movements and relationships among them in 3D space. Interaction visualization with PIV will provide many advantages for interaction design and modeling: it gives better insight into interaction patterns caused by affordances, attractions and obstructions; it can give quick feedback for interaction alteration ideas; it can reduce user experiment time because fixed bed experiments can be performed to evaluate interaction patterns. Scour magnitude can then be inferred from the interaction patterns; the new visualization technique can eventually be used in conjunction with traditional video recordings to measure velocity structures and other relevant aspects.
  3. Peripheral Interaction in Educational Settings. Today’s educators often have very busy everyday routines. Apart from their tasks directly related to teaching, they are also performing several secondary activities such as observing their student’s progress, keeping track of their moods, keeping to the time schedule, etc. In recent years, digital technologies have become ubiquitous in everyday life. This also holds for classrooms, which are now equipped with interactive whiteboards as well as computers and other interactive devices owned by individual students. Focused attention is usually required to interact with these technologies, whereas secondary activities are often performed alongside a different main activity. In the everyday physical world, several activities are performed outside the focus of our attention. For example we are aware of what the weather is like or we can tie our shoelaces without actively thinking about it. These perceptions and actions take place in the background or periphery of our attention, while they may easily shift to the center of our attention when this is relevant. This project will explore “peripheral interaction”: interaction with technology designed to easily shift between the center and periphery of the attention and thereby potentially better fit into people’s everyday routines. In particular it will explore peripheral interaction design to support educators in performing secondary tasks during their everyday routines. Such peripheral interactions can lighten educators’ everyday routines and empower them to focus their attention on the tasks that are most important to them.
  4. Multimodal Interaction in Automotive Applications. With a transition towards autonomous driving, the role of the driver will change from operational (performing the driving actions) towards a supervisory role, where the driver monitors the behavior of the vehicle. It is to be expected that in such situations the focus on the driving situation will diminish and the driver will start to engage more and more in other activities. This raises the question of how the driver can stay informed about the driving situation. The project will investigate what information is relevant with respect to the status of the vehicle and the traffic situation, and what level of situation awareness is needed, and will result in the design of a multimodal interface to provide the driver with the necessary level of situation awareness.
  5. Designing for activity focus and social engagement. The study objective is to create a new design framework and related technological tools that demonstrate how slow technology and recent findings in phenomenology inspired interaction design (e.g., perceptual crossing or reciprocal perception of expressivity) can inspire and inform the design fields towards designing for better focus and attention in interaction. Despite their practical qualities in everyday life, many networked products, such as cell phones or home automation devices, have a critical downside to create numerous real-time interruptions, which often disrupt activity focus and social engagement. Slow technology provides a vision and a reflective approach on issues related to technology distraction. However, current solutions focus on product properties rather than the relation between the product and the user. Recent findings in phenomenology inspired interaction design provide opportunities to address the challenge from an interaction perspective, involving the reciprocal perception of activity and attention between the artifact and the interactant. The project will design, develop and evaluate adaptive and interactive artefacts capable to support interactant’s focus or attention and to reduce real-time interruption.
  6. Designing for distributed systems with shared semantics for expressive interactions. This research focuses on how to design for systems of interactive, distributed products for expressive interactions, drawing inspiration from the theory of ecological perception and from phenomenology. In a world that gets ever more connected, interaction designers and UX designers need handles to better grasp the complexity of novel interactive products that embody and communicate complex semantic relationships and qualities between people in distinct places. To approach this in itself large topic (with many nested challenges), in this research we take angle from group music improvisation – a very accessible activity that already embodies systemic qualities (i.e., networked people and technologies) and that stands in a long history from early church music, to jazz, to contemporary experimental music. Through this research we want to gain insight in (1) how design for distributed systems with shared semantics for expressive interactions can be carried out effectively, (2) what tools might be needed and (3) what process can guide designers towards system designs that simply work and deliver a great user experience taking the advance of embedded and networked technologies and recent development in user interfaces into account. We do this by adopting a research through design approach, which means that we wish to create the aforementioned insights through the creation of a sequence of incremental, experienceable design prototypes. The research proposed here will be a major stepping-stone as it can inform us on how to design for such open systems where meaning is co-created.
  7. Designing interaction resources for everyday practitioners. This research explores the value of designing computational artifacts that are resources for of everyday practices. The research builds on our previous studies of everyday practices such as family life, amateur repair, sustainable DIY, hobbyists, Steampunk, and skateboarding for what these practices can tell us about design and, in particular, the design of technologies. We describe our understanding of design through this research as everyday design. Generally, we argue that everyone is a designer. Within this view, design is ongoing in the creative use and reuse of design artifacts. Design is comprised of a great multiplicity of practices that share in their need to manipulate their designed worlds to improve fit and quality through ongoing transformations and adaptations, yet what drives each practice and how they are carried out is unique and diverse. The project aims to explore the characteristics and implications of this direction for HCI and interaction design. A particular focus of the project will include the need for designers to shift attention to technologies as materials (or objects) within practices rather than configurations of functions and interfaces. In particular, the PhD student will conduct design research that will advance the following concepts: the design of technological objects as resources for practitioners; the simplification or minimization of interaction to fit competences and motivations; and the assessment of design outcomes for their interpretive potential by everyday practitioners as much as their promised utility.
  8. Designing brand renewal/innovation. Brand and branding have been widely discussed in the management and marketing literature. Design, especially the aesthetics of design, has a prominent impact on the brand identity of a corporation. Following the slogan of Design Driven Innovation, this project aims to first understand the current brand efforts and then propose design strategies to innovate/renew these brands of existing large corporations in China. Think about large company as Huawei, Haier, Taobao and etc. Insights and strategies are to be generated to understand how design can contribute to the building of brand identity in the Chinese context. The main research question is “how to design brand renewal/innovation in China”.
  9. Designing mobility product service systems for increasing Chinese ageing generation. China is facing increasing challenge of aging population specifically under the context of the one-child family police established in the late of 1970’s. How to deal with this ageing trend is on the urgent agenda of the Chinese government. Increasing aging phenomenon has presented tremendous challenges on economic prospects and societal wellbeing. Pressures exist, for example, in insurance systems, pension systems and existing models of social support and individual resources. Despite the wide spread use of modern mobility products and services such as taxi, train, car and metro, elderly people are still facing mobility challenges in conducting daily activities, especially with the elderly who suffer from light disability and lives alone from their children in large cities but considerably far away from daily life facilities. Research has shown that lack of mobility can lead to degradation of health and increasing feeling of insecurity. This project aims to understand how current status quo related to the social life and mobility of these elderly people in China and then propose new design strategies and directions to support these elderly to live independently yet connect with the society.
  10. Designing marathon health. Marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometers that is usually run as a road race. The event was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens. There are more than 500 marathons held through the world each year including small marathon events with dozens of participants or large marathons with tens of thousands of participants. Increasingly, more and more people are training for these types of long-distance running. Certificated training programs are available for this purpose. Anyone who runs regularly will face injury at some stage and knowing how to handle the injury effectively could be the difference between a long-term injury and a quick recovery. Acting only when the injuries take place is not effective. Training programs aim to provide the sufficient training to prevent injuries earlier. However, people do not always know what their body is doing. This project aims at designing an intelligent product service system that supports marathon runners to prepare their marathon races, improve their health conditions and have good running results. The annual Beijing marathon and Eindhoven marathon will be used as the testbeds for this project.
  11. Enhancing Creative Experience Design with Storytelling Tools. As explained by Hassenzahl and others, experience design is very closely related to storytelling, so designers wanting to address experience design will need to master efficient and effective ways for communicating their design stories with both end users and other stakeholders. Co-constructing stories with end users has also been shown to be a promising way for designers to understand the user context and values they are designing for. While there is ample expertise in areas such as theatre and film making with constructing stories as a team effect, the skills required for this are insufficiently known to product and service designers, which is why a new method, called Storyply, has been developed and fine-tuned within a large number of design workshops. This method also helps the designers in dividing the total effort into more manageable sub-activities, and also offers support for these sub-activities. Up to now, the method has always relied on physical media, such as posters and post-its. To bring out the true power of the method, it needs to be developed into a digital tool. The potential advantages of such a digital tool over analog media are manifold, i.e., making it easier to maintain multiple stories at the same time, which is known to promote creativity, making it easier to maintain the history of the design process, which can help to study creativity in vivo instead of having to rely on post-hoc reporting, making it more easy for people to cooperate, also from remote locations, overcoming the limitations of static media, such as including animations in the storyboards, etc. In short, having a digitized tool for supporting storytelling activities will not only help designers in experience design, but can also be used to coordinate efforts of design teams, and to maintain a history of the design process.
  12. Creating Creative Cultures of Participation. The distinction between creators and consumers is blurring thanks to the rise of social media, the democratization of media creation, and the emergence of distribution platforms like Amazon, You Tube and App Stores which make it easier for content providers to reach global markets. 3D printing technologies and globalization have also lowered the threshold of manufacturing at small scale from an almost arbitrary geographical location. This blurring of boundaries brings about a shift in a culture of consumption (where consumers consume finished products), to a culture of participation, in which all people are provided with the means to participate and to contribute in product creation. Current design practice and research into the creative design process are not yet able to address the challenges involved in such cultures of participation: how to engage with domain specialists, how to empower people to act as creators, and how to motivate a sustainable culture of creation and sharing that will allow participants in co-creative communities to obtain return on investment. This PhD project shall design, prototype, and test in actual design pracice a collaboration framework to be integrated into future synchronous/asynchronous collaborative design environments, targeting creative communities involving professionals from the creative industry and domain experts/stakeholders without training in design or engineering, e.g., teachers, health professionals, etc. The aim is to enable the participation of such professionals in the creative process in a sustainable way.
  13. Generative art and its application in design and fashion. Generative art refers to art that is created partially or entirely by an autonomous system or by using an autonomous system. We have been experimenting with algorithmic approaches to create variants of existing abstract arts, to generate interesting textile and knitting patterns, and to assist to design tessellation or tiling patterns. In this project we would like to explore the use of generative art in design and fashion, its interactivity in combination with sensors and actuators as well as new materials, and its aesthetic quality that is generated by combining the creativity of the generating system in cooperation with the artists. We are interested in investigating what computer generative arts can tell about the creativity, what the role of the generative approach is in a design process and how this approach could give rise to ideas and concepts in design and fashion that are innovative, surprising and valuable.

More about research at ID, TU/e:

More examples of research projects at ID, TU/e:

More about the agreement between TU/e and CSC: (in Chinese).

More about the requirements in applying the Scholarship from China Scholarship Council (CSC) for Chinese PhD candidates: (in Chinese)

If you are interested in applying, please first address your interest to dr. Jun Hu:, and later prepare the following documents:

  1. Curriculum Vitae
  2. Research plan according to one of the aforementioned topics (no more than 4-pages of A4 in English, Including: Background, Objectives and Research questions, Methodology, Planning, Expected results, Feasibility, Future Plan after your PhD, and References).
  3. Motivation letter (no more than 1-page A4).
  4. Copy of Master Degree (if available, or a letter from your university to prove that you are expected to graduate in due time).
  5. Letter of recommendation from your supervisor at the home university.
  6. Any indication of your English level according to the requirements from CSC. See (in Chinese)