Analysis, modeling and control of human-machine interaction and the emergence of coordination and synchronization in human ensembles

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Engineering Mathematics


The study of the interactions among a large number of dynamical systems, represented through the formalism
of complex networks, is at the forefront of current research in Dynamical Systems and Control Theory. In
particular, much research effort is being spent in understanding how collective behavior emerge in a group of
dynamical agents interconnected over a network. Examples of real-world applications of complex network
analysis span from Life and Social Science to Physics and Engineering. The goal of this PhD project will be to
study, model and analyse the emergence of coordinated behaviour in groups of human players performing a
joint task in order to develop feedback control strategies able to drive robots or virtual players to engage with a
group of individuals and form a team.
More specifically, during my PhD I aim at going beyond the limit of dyadic interaction, extending the study of
synchronization in human ensembles from dyadic to group interaction and exploring the dynamics and the
phenomena (synchronization, leadership etc.) that emerge and characterize the complex network of interactions
between individuals. This will be done through an innovative computer-based set-up that allows studying
human coordination over different interaction patterns and introducing virtual agents in large groups;
furthermore the proposed software will allow experiments to be carried out anonymously over the Internet, so
that each participant is not aware of the others' identity. Summarizing, the aim of my project will be that of
developing a software platform to investigate the mechanisms underlying the onset of coordination in networks
of human and/or virtual players, and exploring new possible implementation for the latter in strategies for the
rehabilitation of patients affected by social disorders.
To summarize, the objectives of my PhD will be to:
- Create novel software platform to allow individuals to perform joint tasks over the internet and coordinate each other in order to monitor their behaviour and the emergence of collective phenonema
- Derive data-driven models of group synchronization; Build a novel cognitive architecture based on nonlinear control strategies for virtual agents to interact in a group;
- Validate numerically and then experimentally the effectiveness of the proposed cognitive architecture for
virtual agents
- Explore the application of the model and strategies developed during the project to telerehabilitation of
patients suffering from social disorders

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509619/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1834175 Studentship EP/N509619/1 23/01/2017 22/01/2021 Maria Lombardi