There are many current and future scenarios that require teams of air, ground or humanoid robots to gather information in complex and often dangerous environments, where it would be unreasonable or impossible for humans to be physically present [1-6]. The current state of the art involves a single robot being monitored by one or many human operators [7], but a single operator managing a team of autonomous robots is preferred as long as effective and time-efficient management of the team is maintained [8-9]. This is limited by the operator's ability to command actions of multiple robots, be aware of robot states, and respond to less important tasks, while accomplishing a primary objective defined by the application scenario. The operator's ability to multi-task could be improved with the use of a multimodal interface, using both visual and haptic feedback. This thesis investigates the use of haptic feedback in developing intuitive, shape-based interaction to maintain heads-up control and increase an operator's situation awareness (SA) while managing a robot team.In this work, the autonomous behavior of the team is modeled after a patrol and cordon scenario, where the team travels to and surrounds buildings of interest. A novel approach that involves treating the team as a moldable volume is presented, where deformations of this volume correspond to changes in team shape. During surround mode, the operator may explore or manipulate the team shape to create custom formations around a building. A spacing interaction method also allows the operator to adjust how robots are spaced within the current shape. Separate haptic feedback is developed for each method to allow the operator to "feel" the shape or spacing manipulation. During travel mode, the operator chooses desired travel locations and receives feedback to help identify how and where the team travels. RoTHSim, an experimental robot team haptic simulator, was developed and used as a test bed for single-operator management of a robot team in a multitasking reconnaissance and surveillance scenario. Using RoTHSim, a human subject experiment was conducted with 19 subjects to determine the effects of haptic feedback and task demand difficulty on levels of performance, SA and workload. Results from the experiment suggest that haptic feedback significantly improves operator performance in a reconnaissance task when task demand is higher, but may slightly increase operator workload. Due to the experimental setup, these results suggest that haptic feedback may make it easier for the operator to experience heads-up control of a team of autonomous robots. There were no significance differences on SA scores due to haptic feedback in this study.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





human-swarm-interaction, haptic feedback, situation awareness