Human Interaction with Assistive Free-Flying Robots

by Szafir, Daniel J., Ph.D., THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN - MADISON, 2015, 250 pages; 3718989


Robots are becoming increasingly prevalent and are already providing assistance in a variety of activities, ranging from space exploration to domestic housework. Recently, a new class of robot has emerged that is small enough to operate within human environments while possessing the capacity for flight. These free-flying robots have traditionally been designed from an engineering perspective, which, while sufficient to develop small robots that can fly, does little to make such robots useful or appropriate for working with or near humans. As a result, these robots have yet to advance beyond research platforms or commercial devices that are manually piloted by hobbyists for entertainment. As an alternative, I believe that it is useful to examine the design of free-flying robots from a human-centered perspective. Through this approach, I seek to answer questions including: What is the design space for human interaction with free-flying robots? How can flying robots be designed to be more appropriate for human environments? How might new robot interfaces be designed to better support collaboration, teamwork, and accomplishing user goals? This dissertation explores these questions in a series of three studies. The first two studies focus on how robot flight behaviors and appearance might be designed to better communicate intent and improve human perceptions of free-flyers. The third study considers the design of interfaces for remote collaboration with free-flyers to accomplish tasks including inventory logistics and management, environmental data collection, and inspecting objects for repair. In addition to these three studies, I present a preliminary exploration into novel privacy threats that free-flyers might pose as they integrate more broadly into society. I also review the historical development of free-flying robots and propose a design space for characterizing human-free-flyer interactions. Overall, this work makes a variety of theoretical, methodological, and practical contributions and presents several novel software and hardware design artifacts. These contributions will help inform the development of new free-flyers able to advance beyond research or hobbyist platforms, leading to real-world deployments in which free-flying robots are able to effectively assist users.

AdviserBilge Mutlu
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsRobotics; Computer science
Publication Number3718989

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