PhD Hybrid Intelligence: Identity, reference & perspective in personal communication models

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PhD Hybrid Intelligence: Identity, reference & perspective in personal communication models
  • University Graduate
Are you eager to take up the challenge to make robots talk and develop a personal language that is sensitive to different multimodal contexts and user perspectives? Do you want to become part of an exciting team working on the forefront of communicating machines? Please apply at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

FTE:         0.8 - 1

Job description

Why build AI systems that replace people if we can build AI systems that collaborate with people? Hybrid Intelligence is the combination of human and machine intelligence, expanding human intellect instead of replacing it. Our goal is to design Hybrid Intelligent systems, an approach to Artificial Intelligence that puts humans at the centre, changing the course of the ongoing AI revolution.

To collaborate with AI, such as robots, both people and systems need to understand how they perceive shared situations differently. Understanding these differences is a first step in collaborating successfully. Communication about these situations is fundamental for resolving misunderstanding, explaining perspectives and informing the other. This project addresses the phenomena of identity, reference and perspective within communicative scenarios between AI and people in real-world situations. Knowledge and awareness of the context helps communication between AI and people (successfully identifying and making reference to the world) and through communication we create the common ground for understanding the context (identifying the world from different perspectives). The project tackles these two sides of the same coin by building personal relationships between people and AI in an adaptive environment to learn how to communicate about shared multimodal     situations or contexts. By building a collective memory of shared encounters, we can define what there is, what is relevant and why we care.

As a PhD on this project you will build models for multimodal situations, interpretations and shared knowledge as well as the capacity to make reference to these situations given different backgrounds and intentions and to understand references made by human collaborators. You will collaborate with many researchers on key notions such as collaborative, explainable, adaptable and responsible AI and you will receive extensive training and can use lab facilities with technical support.

Your duties
  • create and test multimodal context models for robots
  • create and test new communication models for robots
  • develop a robot train and test framework
  • carry out your research according to international standards resulting in a PhD dissertation and at least one publication per year in an A or B ranked journal or conference proceedings
  • make your research and experiments publicly available and reproducible


  • master degree in (Computational) Linguistics, Computer Science or Artificial Intelligence
  • knowledge of and experience with programming in Python
  • knowledge of and experience with Natural Language Processing
  • ​​​​​​​knowledge of and experience with multimodal data processing

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,325 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €2,972 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years (or 5 years in case of a 0.8 fte contract).

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. And to be a university where personal education and societal involvement play a leading role. Where people from different disciplines and backgrounds work together on innovations and on generating new knowledge. Our teaching and research embrace the whole spectrum of science – from the humanities, the social sciences and the pure sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,500 students. We employ more than 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible, located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

Diversity is one of our university’s core values. We are an inclusive community, and we believe that diversity and international activities enhance the quality of education and research. We are always looking for people who can enhance diversity on our campus thanks to their background and experience.

Faculty of Humanities
The Faculty of Humanities links a number of fields of study: Language, Literature and Communication, Art & Culture, History, Antiquities and Philosophy. Our teaching and research focus on current societal and scientific themes: from artificial intelligence to visual culture, from urbanization to the history of slavery, from ‘fake news’ in journalism to communication in organizations. We strive to ensure small group sizes. Innovative education and interdisciplinary research are our hallmarks.

Working at the Faculty of Humanities means making a real contribution to the quality of leading education and research in an inspiring and personal work and study climate. We employ more than 250 staff members, and we are home to around 1,300 students.

About the project
The project is part of the national gravity project on Hybrid Intelligence and will be supervised by Prof. Piek Vossen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Prof. Mark Neerincx (Universiteit van Delft) and Prof. Gusz Eiben  (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam).

The research is further embedded in the Computational Lexicology and Terminology Lab (, which is one of the world’s leading research groups in Human Language technology. Prof. dr. Piek Vossen, recipient of the NWO Spinoza Prize, heads the group of international researchers that are working on ground-breaking projects, among which the Spinoza project ‘Understanding Language by Machines’. Within that framework several PhDs are working on the Leolani project, with which the PhD will also collaborate:

This project on Hybrid Intelligence will be recruiting 27 PhD or postdoc positions in total. For more information on the project and the other positions, see


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter before 15 April 2020.

If you are interested in other projects in addition to this position, you can upload your CV & Letter also to: 

Uploaded CVs and Letters will be considered by other supervisors as well.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Piek Vossen
Position: Professor Computational Lexicology
Telephone: +31 6 81773878

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