In this paper we introduce work toward this goal of enabling an operator to effectively maintain situation awareness over a team of heterogeneous robots. Most existing operator control units (OCUs) are designed for tele-operation of a single robot and require the constant attention of the operator. As the role of robots increase in important fields such as bomb disposal; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); and search and rescue it becomes critical to improve this ratio by enabling multiple robots to be monitored and controlled by a single operator. Toward this goal we have developed the Situations, Actions, Goals, and Environment (SAGE) interface, which utilizes numerous techniques for maintaining operator situation awareness by aiding the operator’s perception, comprehension, and projection when controlling a team of ground robots. Techniques that we developed include dynamic view control, event detection and prioritization, uncertainty display, view-invariant markers to make state information globally visible, and animations to avoid jarring distractions. SAGE’s interface was automated making it completely hands off, thus the operator could save interaction time for critical tasks such robot tasking. SAGE was deployed by Team Michigan as part of its OCU suite in the 2010 Multi-Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge (MAGIC). Team Michigan won this competition in part because of its innovative OCU designs, including SAGE, that enabled two operators to control 14 robots simultaneously – a 1-to-7 operator to robot ratio, higher than any other team.
Crossman, J., Marinier, R. and Olsen, E. “A Hands-Off, Multi-Robot Display for Communicating Situation Awareness to Operators” in Proceedings of the International Workshop on Collaborative Robots and Human Robot Interaction (CR-HRI 2012), 2012. Denver, CO.