Human-in-the-loop control for cooperative human-robot tasks
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Even with the advance of autonomous robotics and automation, many automated tasks still require human intervention or guidance to mediate uncertainties in the environment or to execute the complexities of a task that autonomous robots are not yet equipped to handle. As such, robot controllers are needed that utilize the strengths of both autonomous agents, adept at handling lower level control tasks, and humans, superior at handling higher-level cognitive tasks. To address this need, we develop a control theoretic framework that seeks to incorporate user commands such that user intention is preserved while an automated task is carried out by the controller. This is a novel approach in that system theoretic tools allow for analytic guarantees of feasibility and convergence to goal states which naturally lead to varying levels of autonomy. We develop a model predictive controller that takes human input, infers human intent, then applies a control that minimizes deviations from the intended human control while ensuring that the lower-level automated task is being completed. This control framework is then evaluated in a human operator study involving a shared control task with human guidance of a mobile robot for navigation. These theoretical and experimental results lay the foundation for applying this control method for human-robot cooperative control to actual human-robot tasks. Specifically, the control is applied to a Urban Search and Rescue robot task where the shared control of a quadruped rescue robot is needed to ensure static stability during human-guided leg placements in uneven terrain. This control framework is also extended to a multiple user and multiple agent system where the human operators control multiple agents such that the agents maintain a formation while allowing the human operators to manipulate the shape of the formation. User studies are also conducted to evaluate the control in multiple operator scenarios.