PhD Scholarships Available

Come and learn with us!

The Center for Automation and Robotics Engineering Sciences (CARES) is looking for highly motivated and talented people for postgraduate study in robotics. 


The University of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest and most comprehensive research-led University offering a globally recognised PhD. Candidates will undertake independent and original research, supervised by academic experts and research leaders.

 Our robotics laboratory is well known for robotics software development, including tools and systems. Centre for Automation and Robotic Engineering Science (CARES) is undertaking research in a number of large funded projects including in social robotics.

The aim of this interdisciplinary and international project is to develop a reaction generation method that makes a facial expression, body gesture, dialogue, and movement of robot. We use multi-robot platforms for this project, i.e. EveR4, an anthropomorphous robot head, Silbot, a mobile humanoid robot, and NAO, a small bipedal humanoid robot, as a robot receptionist and a care robot. For this, we develop a motion generation method to convert the human motions to the specific robot motions. The student would review state-of-the-art (which is still in a developing and unclear state) technical papers regarding to the above methods.  

We are now looking for a talented individual to pursue a funded PhD with us.


Entry requirements

  • Applicants should have a high quality first degree in Electrical, Electronic, Computer, Software, Mechatronics, or Mechanical Engineering, or Computer Science
  • Strong practical ability in machine vision, algorithm and software development, and advanced programming skills especially in C/C++
  • Knowledge of ROS, OpenCV, Deep Neural Network, machine learning, and modern software engineering practice are desirable
  • Excellent communication skills, ability to work in a team and meet project deadlines is essential

We look forward to receiving your application (cover letter, CV, evidence of qualifications and references), by e-mail to: Dr Ho Seok Ahn


Decision Automation for Orchards and Vineyards is an exciting new research programme funded by the NZ Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. This research programme is a partnership between the Universities of Auckland, Waikato, Canterbury, and Otago, the Plant and Food Research Institute, Lincoln Agritech Ltd, and several companies and industry organisations.

As partners, we are committed to working together on this research programme to design, develop, and evaluate robotics, as well as the sensing hardware and software that will perform vital tasks for orchards and vineyards. This project builds on previous research between the partners, including outdoor mobile robotics, pollination, harvesting, pruning, and yield estimation in orchards and vineyards.

We are currently seeking enthusiastic and capable PhD candidates to assist us to perfect these new technologies.

Multiple scholarships are available that include full stipends and tuition fees for three years. We especially welcome applications from Māori scholars as a number of our scholarships are reserved for Māori doctoral candidates.

The project is based in the University’s Centre for Automation and Robotic Engineering Science (CARES) and James Henare Māori Research Centre (JHMRC).

The mission of the multidisciplinary CARES is to create innovative and inspiring robotic technologies that improve physical, psychological and economic societal wellbeing. The group’s research activities are principally based in the area of human-robot interaction, robot programming systems and tools and applications including robotics for healthcare, precision farming, underwater, and factories. Previous related research includes sensing, machine learning, and tracking of objects for augmented reality and for flowers and fruit in orchards.

JHMRC focuses on providing excellent research to empower Māori. JHMRC will lead partnerships with Māori business and farming communities, perspectives on the project’s design and education, and the development of capability through Māori PhD and summer students. To discuss this opportunity further, please contact


Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality human assistance with computer vision

Supervisor: Professor Bruce MacDonald 
Using AR/VR to help human orchard and vineyard works to make better decisions when carrying out tasks, based on the learned task description and decision making.

In the Maaratech project, we aim to use Augmented Reality to assist employees to pick fruit or prune vines using visual prompts displayed to them using an augmented reality headset such as the Microsoft Hololens 2.

A key problem in Augmented Reality is the ability to anchor 3D graphics at fixed locations in 3D space. Ideally these locations should remain static, should be communicable between different devices, and should be very fast to calculate on a device with a limited processor and memory capacity.

Microsoft solves this problem through the use of Azure Spatial Anchors, however, these are not ideal for fieldwork because:

  • They are dependent on IR depth sensors that don’t work well in sunlight.
  • They need access to the internet, which is not always available in the field.
  • IR Depth sensors work best against smooth flat surfaces, and our target objects are plants that tend to be rough with many discontinuous surfaces.

Therefore the goal of this project is to develop an alternative to Azure Spatial Anchors that is capable of functioning outdoors in an orchard or vineyard.

Applicants should:

  • Have a high quality first degree in Electrical, Electronic, Computer, Software, Mechatronics, or Mechanical Engineering, or Computer Science.
  • Be familiar with Unity (or the Unreal engine) and C# (if Unity)
  • Be familiar with C++, code optimisation and not be shy about learning new technologies such as ROS, OpenCV, ARM SIMD, and CUDA. Modern software engineering practice is desirable.
  • Have an interest in computer vision, especially topics like feature point tracking, dense and semi-dense visual odometry, bundle adjustment and sparse SLAM.
  • Have a genuine interest in Augmented Reality as a technology.
  • Excellent communication skills, the ability to work in a team and meet project deadlines is essential
  • Māori students are encouraged to apply and will be able to work together with the JHMRC


The following topics are available for postgraduate study. Unless mentioned postgraduate candidates need high grades in order to achieve a scholarship to cover living expenses and fees.

Dementia assistance robot design: Help in a larger project to understand the requirements for a robot to help people with dementia, to define scenarios for a dementia care robot, to implement and evaluate the scenarios. PhD (could be in robotics, healthcare, health psychology).

Orchard pollination and harvesting simulation: Create a simulation of robotic devices and orchards for kiwifruit operations (spraying pollen, harvesting fruit). ME, PhD

A vision based arm controller for a light pneumatic arm: less expensive control using on/off valves, miniature portable air source, improved vision based control, addition of a gripper. ME, PhD (if extended Use model generation software from our partners in Germany, for generating Java based applications for robots. ME, PhD

Context Awareness System for Healthcare Assistance Robot: Introduce context awareness to our Healthcare assistance robot that helps people take medicine, measure vital signs, talk with family members or friends, and enjoy entertainment services. ME, PhD

Emotion reaction system for robot assistants: Develop a reaction generation method that makes a facial expression, body gesture, dialogue, and movement of robot. ME, PhD

Mobile service robots must be customizable when in use, by end users, and others involved in deploying the robots. A number of projects are available. ME, PhD

Vital signs measurement platform for a healthcare robot: Create a sensor manager system for vital signs measurement devices for a healthcare robot. ME, PhD (if extended to decision making)

Machine vision for verifying medication taking: Extend our current system for using 3D vision data to recognize gesture sequences for taking medication, to verify the medication has been properly taken. ME, PhD

Robogen II: healthcare robotics server for big data analysis and streaming services: For enhancing our healthcare data analysis and management of people’s health. Including machine learning and data mining, and activity data analysis. ME, PhD

Social robot companion using our human-like EveR-4 robot: Create software for our new human-like robot head EveR-4, to be a companion for people, for example a receptionist robot. ME, PhD


Please email your CV, transcripts and covering letter to Professor Bruce MacDonald, or Dr Ho Seok Ahn,