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Technology-enabled Emotional Companionship for Eldercare

Lack of emotional companionship, loneliness and boredom are experienced by many older people, negatively impacting their health and wellbeing. Social robots and smart speakers are used in providing companionship but their effects are yet to be rigorously evaluated. This study will focus on technology-enabled emotional companionship for eldercare and investigate what products and functions are available, how they are perceived and received by target users, what lessons can be learned and what aspects may be improved.

Proposals on utilising technology to provide user-centred emotional companionship will be developed, with the aim to provide a more effective approach to eldercare which will enhance older people’s wellbeing.

Candidates with a design/psychology/engineering background are welcome, preferably with a masters degree already.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.

Meet the Supervisor(s)

Hua Dong - Hua Dong is Professor and Head of Brunel Design School. Her research expertise is inclusive design. She is the convenor of the Inclusive Design Research Special Interest Group (InclusiveSIG) at the Design Research Society (DRS), and has been an organiser of the Cambridge Workshop for Universal Access and Assistive Technology since 2014.      Dong has contributed to the creation and development of several successful research groups in the UK and China. She established the Inclusive Design Research Group at Brunel University London. Their research contributed to the  Design Council’s ‘Design Bugs Out’ Challenge, with successful products on market and exhibition at the Design Museum. Dong also founded the Inclusive Design Research Centre in China. They edited the ‘Inclusive design column’ for the ‘Design’ magazine (2020), and helped create the inclusive design guidance for Ant Financial. Their inclusive co-creation projects with community centres at Yangpu District were selected for exhibition at the Milan Triannual (2019). Dong was invited to give keynote/invited speeches on inclusive design at the Universal Design Conference Oslo (2012), UD Conference Fukuoka (2012), Nordic Design Week (2015, 2016), Hohai University (2015), Fudan University (2015), Chongqing University (2015), Beihang University (2017), NorthEast University (2018) and IEID of the International Forum on Innovation and Emerging Industries Development (2019). She has been invited to provide specialist consultancy to Which? (A UK consumer magazine) Reckitt Benkiser, Active Life Village, Shanghai M&G Stationery Inc., Zhida Technology, Cam Scanner, Ant Financial and the Government (e.g. Nanjing) and Charities (e.g. AgeUK). Dong is on the Peer Review College of AHRC since 2019. She was Principal Investigator of the EPSRC grant ‘Facilitating Wider Uptake of Inclusive Design’ and successfully co-applied Newton Funds (sponsored by AHRC, British Council) as the partner country’s PI and has won prestigious fellowship awards. She was Co-I of EPSRC and KTP projects and won a number of industry-funded projects both in the UK and China. In 2020, she initiated, together with Dr Cifter, the UK-Turkey collaboration on inclusive design, leading to the publication of the book “Inclusive Design+ Social Innovation” (2021). She also designed the film ‘evolving inclusive design’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzl1dKCMGLw). Dong was awarded PhD Degree from the Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge. She gained a BEng in Industrial Design and MArch in Architectural Design and Theory from Tongji University. Dong has been Professor in Design at Brunel University London, Tongji University, and Loughborough University. Dong was appointed International Judge of the SDGs Design International Awards (2019). She was Council Member of the Design Research Society (DRS) from 2012-2020, and was elected Fellow of DRS in 2019.    

Related Research Group(s)

Inclusive Design

Inclusive Design - Inclusive Design Research Group at Brunel University London brings together multidisciplinary expertise to understand different factors causing exclusion, to develop methods and interventions for improvement, and to advance the knowledge of design for inclusion.