Vision, hearing and other senses

Basic studies of the biology and psychology of human vision, hearing and other senses (especially touch), to underpin design and implementation of human-computer interfaces. Studies of human vision can inform not only the design of displays but also new thinking in image and vision research; studies of hearing can inform the design of improved speech recognition systems; studies of touch can inform the design of haptic interfaces to virtual environments. For research to be considered by EPSRC, rather than other Research Councils, it is essential to link aims and objectives to the underpinning of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) design.

We will continue to support key capability, with the expectation that researchers will communicate and collaborate with other research areas to ensure impact in the ICT portfolio.

By the end of the Delivery Plan period, we aim to have a research portfolio in this area:

  • Where links continue to be demonstrated with Image and Vision Computing, Artificial Intelligence Technologies, Human-Computer Interaction, Natural Language Processing, Speech Technology, Human Communication in ICT, Graphics and Visualisation, Assistive Technologies, and Robotics. There will be stronger links between machine vision and human vision/perception researchers, to advance new insights into machine vision research
  • That has continued to contribute to scene understanding for robot vision (together with the Image and Vision Computing and Artificial Intelligence Technologies research areas) and in the development of haptic interfaces for robotics and for virtual environments
  • That continues to strengthen links between Visualisation and Human-Computer Interaction, Psychology, and Vision, Hearing and Other Senses, to inform and evaluate the way information is presented visually and in the multi-modal ways that humans have evolved to perceive
  • Where researchers make a strong contribution to healthcare with respect to development of Assistive Technologies for hearing and vision

Researchers in this area have a role to play in: contributing to EPSRC's cross-ICT priorities (especially the Cross-Disciplinarity Co-Creation priority), in terms of shared identification and ownership of research challenges; and delivering the objectives of the Future Intelligent Technologies, People at the Heart of ICT, and Data Enabled Decision Making cross-ICT priorities.

We will maintain close internal and external communication about the remit of proposals at cross-Research Council boundaries, as this area crosses into the remit of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).


The current portfolio in this interdisciplinary area contains ICT-relevant research into psychological and biological aspects of human vision, as well as the psychophysics of human hearing and touch (haptics). Psychology research in general is considered to be very strong in the UK, with face perception a leading area, and a thriving community includes a number of leading researchers (Evidence source 1,2). The UK is strongly represented at international conferences (particularly associated with vision science).

To have impact, research in this area needs to work across boundaries between disciplines. Funding for researchers has been maintained and is mostly concentrated in a small group of institutions, with the remainder spread across a wider number of universities (Evidence source 3).

Vision, Hearing and Other Senses research has the potential to be transformative, particularly where it interfaces with Artificial Intelligence Technologies and with Image and Vision Computing, and where ideas from biological literature have potential to shape new thinking and insights in the sphere of image and vision research.

This is an important area for advances in robotics and autonomous systems. It contributes to scene understanding in robot vision (together with Artificial Intelligence Technologies, and Image and Vision Computing). It also contributes to better understanding of the effective design of haptic interfaces for robotics, and the design of haptic interfaces for virtual environments (Evidence source 4).

Visual perception studies are key to informing the design of video representations for transmission, search and retrieval of information, and in the design of other ways that information can be presented visually.

The area is important to Healthcare Technologies with respect to the development of assistive technologies for hearing and vision (Evidence source 3,4).

This research area is expected to contribute to Connected and Healthy Nation Outcomes. The following Ambitions are particularly relevant:

C3: Deliver intelligent technologies and systems

This research area should contribute to development of smart tools and intelligent technologies that will turn data flows into physical action. This will include developing interfaces for communicating between these intelligent systems and the people using them.

C5: Design for an inclusive, innovative and confident digital society

This area should develop new inclusive methods for interaction with ever-more ubiquitous and pervasive ICT systems.

H5: Advance non-medicinal interventions

This area should develop augmented reality for surgical training, image-guided surgical interventions and real-time sensory feedback.

  1. Input from the ICT Strategic Advisory Team, the UK Computing Research Committee (UKCRC) Executive Committee and Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 panellists.
  2. ESRC, the British Psychological Society, the Association of Heads of Psychology Departments and the Experimental Psychology Society, International Benchmarking Review of UK Psychology (PDF), (2010).
  3. Analysis of EPSRC data.
  4. Community engagement (individual input, group feedback and team visits).

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC Support by Research Area in Vision, Hearing and Other Senses (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: ICT Theme
Department: ICT
Organisation: EPSRC