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Communication of Robot Status to Improve Human-Robot Collaboration

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Communication of Robot Status to Improve Human-Robot Collaboration
Future space exploration will require humans and robots to collaborate to perform all the necessary tasks. Current robots mostly operate separately from humans due to their limited capabilities. However, as robots become more capable and autonomous, further collaboration can occur. We identify two types of collaborations in the future: indirect, where the robot performs tasks separate the astronaut and direct, where the astronaut and robot work together in parallel. However, for either types of collaboration, the astronaut and robot must be able to coordinate their actions. This requires that the robot express information about its state, such as its intent and status. The cues that humans use to convey this information requires modalities of expression that many robots possess. Thus, our goal in this work is to find ways for robots to express their status using limited modalities. In our proposed work, we outline the steps. In the first step, we will use a needs finding approach to get a better understanding of the interactions that occur between astronauts and robots during space missions and to identify status relevant to successful collaboration. Next, we will explore different methods of conveying status using primarily three modalities: sounds, motion and lights. We choose these modalities because they are commonly available (or can be added) to most robot platforms. We will utilize techniques from animation, human-computer interaction and psychology and validate our work in user studies on several proposed platforms (Sphero, VGo, Quadrotor). The platform we are targeting is the new free-flying robot in development at the Intelligent Robotics lab at Ames. Lastly, we will validate our work in a small study with our target population, astronauts. Since, astronauts are not easily accessible, we will first utilize mission control and a convenience population to gather data and validate our work. It is important, however, to test our work with our intended users in a smaller study. NASA has shown an ongoing interest in having robots both autonomous and teleoperated on the International Space Station. With astronaut time highly limited, it is necessary to utilize all tools at hand to relieve their workload to improve mission success. This work is directly applicable to NASA's current system, the Smart SPHERES, as well as its new system, the free-flying robot. Furthermore, this work can help inform the design of the new free-flying robot such that human-robot collaboration can be improved in future space missions. More »

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