May 6, 2011
Practice Can Make Search-And-Rescue Robot Operators More Accurate
Urban search and rescue (USAR) task forces are essential for locating, stabilizing, and extricating people who become trapped in confined spaces following a catastrophic event. Sometimes the search area is too unstable for a live rescue team, so rescuers have turned to robots wielding video cameras. Most recently, the USAR robots have been employed by rescuers following the devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami. The rescuers control, or teleoperate, from a safe location. Teleoperation can be problematic, as robots frequently become stuck, which can destabilize the search area and hinder rescue operations.
"The World Trade Center site was the first major real-world evaluation of robots as tools for USAR," says Keith Jones, an HF/E researcher at Texas Tech University. "Overall, the robots performed well. One problem that did surface, however, was that the robots got stuck, a lot." Jones, with coauthors Brian Johnson and Elizabeth Schmidlin, published a study of USAR robot teleoperation in a special issue of the Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making on human-robot interaction.
"Our research seeks to understand why operators are getting their robots stuck," says Jones. "With that knowledge, hopefully, we can reduce the problem, and increase the amount of time that operators spend searching for survivors."
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