Extreme Scalability: Designing Interfaces and Algorithms for Soldier-Robotic Swarm Interaction

Report No. ARL-TR-5222
Authors: Ellen C. Haas, Susan Hill, Christopher Stachowiak, Krishna Pillalamarri, and MaryAnne Fields
Date/Pages: June 2010; 24 pages
Abstract: In theory, autonomous robotic swarm can be used for critical Army tasks (i.e., accompanying convoys); however, the Soldier controlling the swarm must be able to monitor swarm status and correct actions, especially in disrupted or degraded conditions. For the concluding year of this two-tear Director's Research Initiative (DRI), we designed multimodal (speech and touch) Soldier-swarm control concepts to allow Soldiers to efficiently control a robotic swarm participating in a representative convoy mission. We used a potential field approach for swarm control because it scales easily to large heterogeneous swarms and allows users to dynamically alter swarm behavior by adjusting field parameters. We tested the effectiveness of the swarm controls in a laboratory study using 12 male Marines (volunteers) with a mean age of 19 years. The metacognition results showed that the swarm (which consisted of members fulfilling sentry and explorer functions) could maintain adequate coverage most of the time. Interface results showed that most participants, 58%, used speech commands first almost exclusively, while the remaining used touch commands first. Results can be applied to future swarm and command and control systems.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: June 1, 2010