Coordinating Human-Robot Teams in Uncertain Environments

The decreasing cost and increasing sophistication of robot hardware is creating new opportunities for teams of robots to be deployed in combination with skilled humans to support and augment labor-intensive and/or dangerous manual work. The vision is for robots to free up time of skilled workers so they can focus on the tasks that they are skilled at (complex problem solving, dextrous manipulation, customer service, etc.) and robots can help with the distracting and frustrating parts of working, such as delivering materials or fetching supplies.

This vision is being realized across many sectors of the US economy and abroad, such as in warehouse management, assembly manufacturing, and disaster response. However, progress in this area is being stymied by current methods that are rigid and inflexible, and rely on unrealistic models of human-robot interaction. This project seeks to overcome these problems by proposing new models and methods for teams robots to coordinate with teams humans to complete complex problems.

The solution methods developed in this project will allow the robots to reason about the uncertainty about the domain and their human teammates, while optimizing their behavior. The methods are broadly applicable to human-robot collaboration domains, but they will be evaluated in an emergency department, an environment with a large amount of uncertainty and many delivery and supply tasks during high-volume times. A team of robots can assist in these tasks. Experiments will take place in simulation and in the UC San Diego Simulation and Training Center with various numbers of humans and robots. The results of this project have the potential to transform the way human-robot coordination is performed.