[robotics-worldwide] 1 post-doc opening + 1 PhD opening at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT)

Luca Brayda luca.brayda at iit.it
Tue Aug 13 00:52:38 PDT 2013

There are two open positions available at the Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences department of IIT, Genoa, Italy.
Both positions relate to the study of haptic/tactile feedback mechanisms to improve spatial abilities of visually impaired subjects.

1) The post-doc position falls within the scope of a European project - BLINDPAD (www.blindpad.eu). This position relates to designing and validating novel haptic actuation systems based on smart, soft materials , to be used in the construction of innovative tactile pin arrays. The arrays will be part of a personal assistive device for blind and visually impaired people. The device is to be used in the context of learning iconic and graphical content at school age, and to improve orientation and mobility skills of young and adults.
The project will last three years and will involve research centers and companies from Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Poland and Hungary. Since BLINDPAD will start on January 2014, interested candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, with deadline September 30th, by contacting Dr. Luca Brayda (luca.brayda at iit.it). Details below.

2) The PhD position is financed by IIT and University of Genoa. The project relates to the cognitive aspects of learning mental maps with minimal haptic feedback, with the ultimate goal of building low-cost personal devices to access graphical content in absence of vision. Applicants should contact the tutors (Dr. Luca Brayda - luca.brayda at iit.it or Prof. Gabriel Baud-Bovy  - gabriel.baud-bovy at iit.it - ) well before the application deadline, set to September 20th. Details below.


Details about:

Post-doctoral position in haptic displays for visually impaired people  - EU project BLINDPAD

Within the context of the EU funded project BLINDPAD (www.blindpad.eu), the Department of Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences (RBCS) at the Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) is looking for a Postdoctoral fellow in the field of haptic displays for human-machine interaction for both youngsters and adults with disabilities.

Goal of the project is to make graphical contents accessible to blind and visually impaired people through touch by building and field-testing a personal assistive device. The device will use smart materials as actuators and will be connected to state-of-art mobile devices.The BLINDPAD will help, with serious games, visually impaired people in two paramount use cases:
(1) touch-based learning of symbolic content at school age;
(2) support orientation and mobility skills indoor and outdoor.

Research for this position will involve:

- mechanical validation of the actuation system when in contact with hands and fingers
- assessment of efficient information gathering of three-dimensional haptic information
- design of rendered haptic shapes as simple but highly informative graphics in both use cases

Being BLINDPAD a highly multidisciplinary project, the candidate will work in close collaboration with scientists active in the field of cognition, human-machine interaction, rehabilitation, material engineering and nanotechnology.

Candidates should have a PhD in haptics or mechanical/computer science/electronic engineering, with a publication record in one of the following areas: tactile displays, tactile actuators, physical modeling, and force-feedback devices.

Experience with tactile pin arrays, assistive technologies, statistical signal processing, computer science or with human factors and experimental psychology are an asset.

The contract is funded by an FP7 grant under the Objective ICT-2013.5.3 "ICT for smart and personalized inclusion".

The research activities will take place at IIT in Genoa.
The working language of the institute is English. An internationally competitive salary, dependent on experience, will be offered.

Interested applicants should submit CV, list of publications, names of 2 references.

Please send your application to the following email address:
luca.brayda at iit.it
before September 30th, 2013.

Official job-post URL: 


Details about:

PhD fellowship

Developing cognitive maps from virtual objects: exploiting spatial abilities through tactile serious games 


Dr. Luca Brayda and Prof. Gabriel Baud Bovy 

Job description

Assistive technology attempts to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. In the case of sensory impairments such as blindness, systems able to assess and exploit spatial abilities using electronic devices are proposed as effective experimental setups, but very few of them are used in current rehabilitation procedures, or are present on the market [1]. The problem is generally in how and how much information can be conveyed on alternative sensory channels. One of the contexts where visually impaired people would most benefit from an assistive device is internet navigation: there, textual information is delivered through either Braille or voice output, but the content linked to images and icons is very difficult to be decoded [2]. Globally, web pages are organized for sighted people in logical structures tailored on sight, and whether the same structures should be used for blind subjects is not known. The use of virtual objects perceivable through touch has recently been proposed as a possible solution to the problem [3]. Within the context of the IIT multidisciplinary DIGEYE project, we have shown that blind and sighted subjects seem to develop similar identifiable exploration strategies [4] and similar brain patterns [5] when touching virtual objects while attempting to form a mental spatial representation (known as 'cognitive map' [6]). However, it is still unknown which 'dictionary' of tactile elements may increase mapping performances, and how much rich the tactile information needs to be [7,8].

The objective of this PhD program is twofold: first, to design a dictionary of virtual tactile objects able to quickly elicit the development of cognitive maps, under the constraint of a limited tactile information mainly localized under the fingertip [8]; second, to assess how the dictionary can be helpful in evaluating in measurable ways the spatial abilities of sighted and sensory impaired individuals, with the creation of serious games. 

This project is multidisciplinary: the PhD candidate will carry out an autonomous work, however closely assisted by a team of mechanical and computer science engineers. (S)he will also be in touch with scientists active in cognition, neuroscience, and robotics. The direct contact with rehabilitation centers for visually impaired subjects, who will be the final beneficiaries of this research, will provide precious feedback. 
Results of this research can help in understanding how to improve spatial abilities of sensory deprived individuals, both in rehabilitation contexts and information/entertainment systems. 
Ultimately, this project will be important to validate and participate in user-centered design of new assistive devices currently built in RBCS. Therefore, the hardware and software solutions output from the project are planned to be commercially exploitable. 


The candidate for this position must have either a degree in Computer Science Engineering, Bioengineering or equivalent, with high interests in human sciences, or alternatively a degree in Psychology, with proven background in programming toolboxes (Matlab, R). Expertise in Virtual Reality, Assistive Technology and Haptics is highly appreciated but optional 

Contacts: luca.brayda at iit.it or gabriel.baud-bovy at iit.it

Application deadline (hard): September 20th 2013

List of references and details for applications available here: http://www.iit.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2012
This theme is officially listed as theme 4, within the "Curriculum COGNITIVE ROBOTICS, INTERACTION AND REHABILITATION TECHNOLOGIES" track of the Bioengineering and Robotics course of the University of Genoa (http://www.biomedica.ingegneria.unige.it/index.php/dottorato)
IMPORTANT: applicants should register online at: http://servizionline.unige.it/studenti/post-laurea/dottorato/registrazione and provide related documents BEFORE September 20th, 2013 at noon CET.

Insieme salviamo gli alberi - Stampate solo se necessario -Together, let's save trees. Please print only if necessary! 

Luca Brayda, PhD
Researcher, Team Leader
Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences dept.
Via Morego, 30 - 16163 Genova
t: +39 010 71781527
f: +39 010 71781234


More information about the robotics-worldwide mailing list