Tony Belpaeme

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Two PhD positions in social robotics

The AIRO group (Artificial Intelligence and Robotics) of the IDLab at Ghent University is looking for two PhD students to help with our research on social robotics and machine learning.

Social robots are robots which interact with people in a natural manner by, for example, using speech, gestures, facial expressions and language. As social robots use natural communication, they are easier to interact with and this has many applications in entertainment, services, education, collaborative robotics and therapy.

Now however, these robots are only able to interact with us for a limited amount of time before we lose interest. Our research aims to change that. The project will study long-term human-robot interaction: what psychological and technical elements are needed for a social robot to become an engaging and relevant social partner? We will explore approaches to draw people into a human-robot interaction, starting from first principles on what makes interaction long-term between people. Next, we will implement studies to validate our theories and identify application domains where social robots can make a difference (such as education, support or customer service). We will very much use an explorative approach, using curiosity-led research to arrive at scientifically, societally and technically relevant results.

You will be supervised by Prof Tony Belpaeme ( together with Prof Francis wyffels, Prof Jelle Saldien and Prof Joni Dambre. You will be part of a vibrant and interdisciplinary research team, focusing on human-robot interaction, unconventional robotics, cognitive systems and machine learning. You will have access to the full facilities of IDLab, including high performance computing/GPU clusters and the HomeLab living lab.

Ghent University ( is a top 100 university in Belgium situated in the historical and trendy city of Ghent. With 41,000 students and 9,000 staff, the university is one of the largest universities in the wide region. Ghent University’s mission is to combine high-quality education with internationally leading research and a pluralistic social responsibility. You will join the AIRO group which is part of IDLab, a research lab consisting of more than 300 researchers developing today the tech of tomorrow.

Profile of the candidate

You must have an MSc degree in computer science, electrical engineering, technical cognitive science or areas relevant to the research topic (for example, psychology with a keen interest in robotics and AI). Good programming skills are required (C++, Python, or other), training in machine learning or robotics is commendable. English will be the primary language used (spoken as well as written). The PhD position is highly interdisciplinary and requires an understanding and/or interest in psychology and social sciences.

Further details:

  • The position start date is negotiable.
  • The net amount of the scholarship will be approximately €2000 per month, increasing annually. You will also receive a holiday allowance and an end-of-year bonus, and will enjoy full social security cover. Additional financial support is available for attending conferences and workshops.
  • You will be affiliated with the Artificial Intelligence and Robotics group of the IDLab. While the research will be based in Ghent, occasional travel to international conferences will be required.
  • You will be enrolled in the doctoral training programme offered by the Doctoral School of Engineering.
  • Ghent University and AIRO lab encourages equal opportunities. We will consider applications based only on your potential as an early career researcher and your fit to the research programme.

How to apply

For informal queries, do not hesitate to contact Tony Belpaeme ( Your application should include

  1. A letter motivating your application including a small research proposal (3 pages maximum). Why do you wish to pursue a PhD in social robotics? What prior experience do you have? How would you approach human-robot interaction and long-term engagement?
  2. A CV, with copies of relevant exams, grades, master thesis work or publications.
  3. The names and contact details of at least 2 referees. Recommendation letters can be included with your application, but are not needed at the time of application.

Applicants should send their application to with subject “PhD application”. The application deadline is Friday 10 January 2020. Selected candidates will be invited for interview, which can be organised over Skype if necessary.

Summer job on social engineering in robots


Voor het geval nog iemand op zoek is naar een ietwat bijzondere vakantiebezigheid:

We zoeken iemand die ons kan helpen met een experiment rond “social engineering” met robots, dit in het kader van een studie rond het hacken van robots en de mogelijke negatieve gevolgen. Je specifieke taak bestaat uit het implementeren van het experiment op de robot. Hiervoor gebruiken we een Pepper-robot (van Softbank Robotics) die geprogrammeerd wordt in Python en/of Choregraphe (een visuele programmeertaal, gericht op mensen die weinig van programmeren afweten) die via de NaoQi API interfacet met de robot.

We zoeken iemand met een achtergrond in computerwetenschappen, informatica of elektronica, ervaring met Python wordt op prijs gesteld. Je hoeft niet student te zijn aan de UGent, maar het mag wel.

We willen je graag aan de slag in augustus 2019, maar de werkuren zijn flexibel. De werkplek zal voornamelijk het Artificial Intelligence en Robotics lab zijn van IDLab (8ste verdieping van het iGent-gebouw op het Technologiepark, aka Campus Ardoyen), maar je kan eventueel ook op afstand werken, en we willen je er ook graag bij als we een experiment op locatie doen.

Betaling is tegen standaardtarief voor jobstudenten aan de UGent (€ 14,99 per uur), hierbij komen nog vergoedingen voor verplaatsingen.

Ben je geïnteresseerd of wil je meer weten, neem dan contact op met Tony Belpaeme (

We are looking for a summer placement student to help program social robots. We are setting up a study in “social hacking” using robots and need help programming the robot and running studies. You will be tasked with programming a Pepper robot using Python or Choregraphe, and NaoQi.

We are looking for someone with a CS or electronics profile, who can be available in August 2019. You will mainly work at the AI and Robotics lab of IDLab at the University of Gent (located at the Technologiepark), but can also work from home and will be expected to support field trials.

Remuneration is based on standard tariffs of Ghent University (14.99€/h), excluding travel reimbursement.

For more information or to apply, please contact Tony Belpaeme (


Symposium on Robots for Language Learning

Symposium on Robots for Language Learning

12-13 December 2018

Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey

In recent years social robots have shown great promise as tutors and teaching aids. Education has come under pressure to deliver a more personalised, one-to-one experience., but this has been difficult given the increased classroom diversity and budgetary pressures. Robots might provide a way forward, especially for topics where one-to-one tutoring can have large returns, such as language learning and second language learning.

This symposium aims to bring together people interested in how robots can support education. We welcome views from educational and developmental psychology, pedagogy, artificial intelligence and robotics.

The symposium is also the closing event of the L2TOR project, which studies how social robots can teach young children a second language.

More information at