Survivor Buddy is a two-way communication device attached to a robotic arm that can be mounted to a mobile robotic base. It is intended for use in disaster areas like building collapses to reach people trapped under rubble and communicate both their position and condition. The project has been the focus of undergraduate research for the development of new interactive interfaces for controlling the robot. The Survivor Buddy has also been used in studies related to the development of vocal prosody in robotic speech. The latest efforts have been devoted to operating the different degrees of freedom of the robot through a mobile application using the accelerometer and gyroscope.
The Robot Intent project involved the development and testing three interfaces for communicating a robot’s intended movements to people operating near the robot. The three interfaces included a mobile Android device that displayed the next intended movement, an earpiece that gave audio messages of the next intended movement, and an LED light display that displayed directional arrows for the next intended directions in both visual and infrared LED displays. As a control condition for a study conducted the participants used a Logitech gamepad controller to manually operate the robot as is typical of robots operating with people in close proximity. This project involved designing and building the LED display, designing and programming the Android interface, and setting up the audio messaging system. This project was led by undergraduate researchers and resulted in a conference publication.
The other aspect of this project was the development of control interfaces to override autonomy based on intended messages through supervisory control of the robot. Undergraduate and graduate researchers created three interfaces for overriding a semi-autonomous robot’s behaviors. The three interfaces were a touchscreen Android mobile device to direct the movements of the robot, a voice command through a microphone attached to the Android mobile device, and the use of a Kinect to record directions for the robot to move through arm gestures. This resulted in a publication for the undergraduate and graduate researchers.
Both of these projects are in support of improving operations between a robot and a team of humans, such as tactical or search and rescue teams. A study was conducted for both intent and control interfaces using a maze in which the participants navigated a Turtlebot robot.
Vocal Prosody in Robotic Speech
Most HRI research concerning speech is investigating speech directed from human to robot. There has been relatively little research on the reverse communication channel: speech directed from robot to human. We are conducting experiments to determine if conveying emotion in robotic speech will increase the quality of human-robot interactions using the Survivor Buddy robot platform.