Human-Robot Interaction in Space Systems

Paul S. Schenker

In the last two decades, robotic systems have changed significantly in function, form, application, architecture, and perhaps most significantly, human-robotic interaction. Early notions of master-slave teleoperation have given way to telerobotic shared and traded control. Programmed automation has evolved to more flexibly structured on-board deliberative planning and reactive control. Single robot agents have generalized to multi-robot heterogeneous cooperative systems and mixed initiative supervisory control architectures. Some of the more interesting applications and technical problems lie in development of space robotic systems where the operator and robot(s) are in: 1) a distal "local-remote" relationship with inherent communication latency, performing complex, somewhat unstructured tasks, or at the other extreme, 2) in a proximal relationship where the human-robot complex is spatially and temporally local, with the operator both physically and symbolically immersed in task control. There are important examples for the domains of both in-space assembly, maintenance and servicing, and exploration and habitation of planetary / lunar surfaces. This keynote presentation looks at the developmental path of such space systems, some of the supporting technical concepts developed to date, and future opportunities for richer, more efficient human-robot interaction.

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