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Teleoperation in Buildings

Teleoperation in Buildings

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Takayama, L., Marder-Eppstein, E., Harris, H., & Beer, J. M. (2011). Assisted driving of a mobile remote presence system: System design and controlled user evaluation. Proceedings of International Conference on Robotics and Automation: ICRA 2011, China, 1883-1889.

From abstract in article: As mobile remote presence (MRP) systems become more pervasive in everyday environments such as office spaces, it is important for operators to navigate through remote locations without running into obstacles. Human-populated environments frequently change (e.g., doors open and close, furniture is moved around) and mobile remote presence systems must be able to adapt to such changes and to avoid running into obstacles. As such, we implemented an assisted teleoperation feature for a MRP system and evaluated its effectiveness with a controlled user study, focusing on both the system-oriented dimensions (e.g., autonomous assistance vs. no assistance) and human-oriented dimensions (e.g., gaming experience, locus of control, and spatial cognitive abilities) (N=24). In a systems-only analysis, we found that the assisted teleoperation helped people avoid obstacles. However, assisted teleoperation also increased time to complete an obstacle course. When human-oriented dimensions were evaluated, gaming experience and locus of control affected speed of completing the course. Implications for future research and design are discussed.
Takayama, L., Marder-Eppstein, E., Harris, H., & Beer, J. M. (2011). Assisted driving of a mobile remote presence system: System design and controlled user evaluation. Proceedings of International Conference on Robotics and Automation: ICRA 2011, China, 1883-1889.

From abstract in article: As mobile remote presence (MRP) systems become more pervasive in everyday environments such as office spaces, it is important for operators to navigate through remote locations without running into obstacles. Human-populated environments frequently change (e.g., doors open and close, furniture is moved around) and mobile remote presence systems must be able to adapt to such changes and to avoid running into obstacles. As such, we implemented an assisted teleoperation feature for a MRP system and evaluated its effectiveness with a controlled user study, focusing on both the system-oriented dimensions (e.g., autonomous assistance vs. no assistance) and human-oriented dimensions (e.g., gaming experience, locus of control, and spatial cognitive abilities) (N=24). In a systems-only analysis, we found that the assisted teleoperation helped people avoid obstacles. However, assisted teleoperation also increased time to complete an obstacle course. When human-oriented dimensions were evaluated, gaming experience and locus of control affected speed of completing the course. Implications for future research and design are discussed.

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Assisted Driving of a Mobile Remote Presence System: System Designand Controlled User Evaluation
Leila Takayama, Eitan Marder-Eppstein, Helen Harris, Jenay M. Beer
 Abstract
As mobile remote presence (MRP) systems becomemore pervasive in everyday environments such as office spaces,it is important for operators to navigate through remotelocations without running into obstacles. Human-populatedenvironments frequently change (e.g., doors open and close,furniture is moved around) and mobile remote presence systemsmust be able to adapt to such changes and to avoid running intoobstacles. As such, we implemented an assisted teleoperationfeature for a MRP system and evaluated its effectiveness witha controlled user study, focusing on both the system-orienteddimensions (e.g., autonomous assistance vs. no assistance) andhuman-oriented dimensions (e.g., gaming experience, locus of control, and spatial cognitive abilities) (
 N 
=24). In a systems-onlyanalysis, we found that the assisted teleoperation helped peopleavoid obstacles. However, assisted teleoperation also increasedtime to complete an obstacle course. When human-orienteddimensions were evaluated, gaming experience and locus of control affected speed of completing the course. Implicationsfor future research and design are discussed.
I. INTRODUCTIONMobile remote presence (MRP) systems are not new tech-nologies, e.g., the personal roving presence (PRoP) system[1] and the mutually immersive telepresence system [2], butthey are becoming increasingly available for everyday use.As such, we are learning more about the use cases anduser needs for such systems. Based on our own experienceswith our MRP system and watching others drive them,anecdotal reports indicate that some remote operators havedifficulty with driving the system, which leads to inefficientdriving and poses some safety risks (as with any physi-cal machine). Furthermore, some remote operators reportfeeling embarrassed in front of their colleagues when theMRP system collides with obstacles. Although operatorsdo not necessarily want to give up driving control to afully autonomous system, it is ideal to avoid embarrassing(and potentially dangerous) situations such as collisions withwalls, doors, and other objects in the environment.Because the remote presence system represents and em-bodies the remote human operator, it is important for theoperator to have control over the behavior of the system.However, there are times when operators may prefer torely upon more autonomous capabilities, e.g., autonomously
This work was supported by Willow Garage.L. Takayama is a research scientist at Willow Garage, 68 Willow Road,Menlo Park, CA, USA.
takayama@willowgarage.com
E. Marder-Eppstein is a software engineer at Willow Garage.
eitan@willowgarage.com
H. Harris and J. M. Beer were research interns at Willow Garage at thetime of this study. They are currently PhD students at Stanford Universityand Georgia Tech, respectively.
hharris@willowgarage.com,jbeer@willowgarage.com
parking in a charging station or avoiding obstacles. As such,the current system was designed to allow operators to drivethe MRP system, but to have the system assist the operatorby detecting obstacles and avoiding collisions with thoseobstacles.We present the design for this assisted teleoperation sys-tem, which we implemented and tested with 24 remoteoperators. Each of the remote operators drove both theunassisted teleoperation system and the assisted teleoperationsystem.II. RELATED WORKThere are many degrees of autonomy that can be usedfor assisted teleoperation (in this case, navigation) tasks.There are autonomous forklifts [3], autonomous simultane-ous localization and mapping (SLAM) wheelchairs [4], andautonomous personal robots [5] that assume operator com-mands at a very high-level, e.g., specifying a final destinationand orientation on a map. Because the current MRP system isoperated remotely through a web-based interface, there areconstraints such as bandwidth and latency of the network connection between the operator and the machine. Theseconstraints may require more autonomy in the system asthey can limit an operator’s reaction time. Previous work,using a Pioneer all-terrain mobile robot, has explored howto use a dynamic map interface to allow operators to allocatenavigation commands to the robot from a distance, letting therobot do the path planning and obstacle avoidance [6].There are also shared control systems that allow for high-level control by the operator along with low-level control bythe autonomous system. Crandall and Goodrich [7] devel-oped an interface loop and autonomy loop model of human-robot interaction that helps to understand shared controlsystems. They investigated the influences of shared vs. directcontrol on a navigating robot, using time-to-task-completionas a performance metric for evaluating the effectiveness of the system; this study found that operators were about 35%more efficient at the task when using shared control thandirect control. In this example, shared control systems helpedto “relieveoperators of some of the burden to completea task, as depicted by Verplank in Sheridans book onautomation [8]. Unlike supervisory control systems alongSheridan’s scale of degrees of automation [8], the user isnot necessarily given choices to select from; instead, theoperator is sometimes overridden by the autonomous system(and might not even be informed about that behavior).Shared control systems (where both the human operatorand the robotic system simultaneously share control) have
© IEEE, (2011). This is the author’s version of the work. It is posted here by permission of IEEE for yourpersonal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version will be published in ICRA 2011.Takayama, L., Marder-Eppstein, E., Harris, H., & Beer, J. M. (2011).Assisted driving of a mobile remote presence system: System design and controlled user evaluation.Proceedings of International Conference on Robotics and Automation: ICRA 2011, China, 1883-1889.
 
been developed and used in a variety of other contexts.Wheelesley, a shared control wheelchair, assessed operators’routes and used sensor data to avoid obstacles [9]. Otherforms of semi-autonomous wheelchairs features such asguide following, automatic gear ratio selection, and auto-matic stability augmentation have also been proposed [10].Similarly, shared control arm manipulators have been de-signed to allow the operator to provide “global” motionplanning commands, while letting the machine do the localpath finding and collision detection [11]. Shared controlsystems are also found in the domain of balancing; theGyrover was controlled by a human operator at the mid-level and high-level behaviors, while the autonomous modulecontrolled the low-level tilt motor when the operator failedto give a command to keep the Gyrover upright [12]. Ashared control mobile robot was also built to “monitor-correct irrational operator actions,and avoid obstacles byusing a combination of vector field histograms and modifieddistance transforms [13]. Finally, automobiles are becomingincreasingly autonomous systems, e.g., using shared controlstrategies for identifying and modifying dangerous lane de-parture maneuvers using a feature called “emergency laneassist” [14].Like previously discussed shared control systems, the cur-rent MRP assisted teleoperation system gives the autonomousmodule low-level control. Autonomous obstacle avoidanceis only activated when the MRP system’s laser range finderdetects proximate obstacles. Although some previous worksused controlled user studies to evaluate the effectiveness of their shared control systems (e.g., [9], [7]), most of thesereports are presented as a proof of concept with anecdotal,limited (three or four participants), or no user studies. Thecurrent MRP assisted teleoperation system presents a newtype of hardware and application space (mobile remotepresence) with a fully controlled laboratory experiment toevaluate the influences upon the successful use of this sharedcontrol system. In addition to measuring system dimensions(e.g., autonomous assistance vs. no assistance), we alsomeasured human dimensions (e.g., spatial cognitive ability,personality, gaming experience, etc.), which significantlyinfluenced task performance. By making the source codeavailable (as a ROS package) and using thorough user studyevaluation, we aim to move toward a more rigorous scientificquality of system evaluations [15] for such human-robotshared control systems.III. THE MOBILE REMOTE PRESENCE SYSTEMThe mobile remote presence system used in the currentstudy was a Texai Alpha prototype, which is primarily usedby remote co-workers in the office space. This prototypeconsists of a mobile base, driven by a single PR2 smartcaster in the back, and two passive wheels in the front. Ithas two laser range finders–one on the base and one at thebottom of the touch screen. The “head” has a touch screento visualize the operator’s video stream, webcam for lookingaround, wide angle camera for navigation, microphone forlistening, and speakers for talking. Operators of this MRPsystem typically control the system through a web-basedgraphical user interface (GUI) by clicking and dragging apoint in a 2-dimensional space in the GUI. The MRP systemmoves faster as the user clicks-and-drags the cursor furtherway from the center of the box. Because the MRP is drivenby an active caster in the back, it moves similarly to a forklift.See Figure 1.
Fig. 1. Operator using the mobile remote presence system in an officeplace standing meeting
IV. ASSISTED TELEOPERATION DESIGN ANDIMPLEMENTATIONThe assisted teleoperation software used in this work wasdesigned to help operators avoid obstacles in an unobtrusiveway. The operator provides input to the system in the form of a desired velocity command specified through the web-baseduser interface. The assisted teleoperation system then takesthis command and determines whether it is safe to executethrough forward simulation. If the command is deemed safe,the assisted teleoperation system passes the command onto motor control. If, however, the command would causethe MRP system to collide with an obstacle, the assistedteleoperation system attempts to find a velocity commandthat is similar to the desired command of the user, but willnot result in a collision. The three main components of theassisted teleoperation software–the costmap, the trajectorysimulator, and the user interface–are described in detailbelow, and are arranged as shown in Figure 2.
 A. Costmap
The costmap builds a recent history of obstacle informa-tion from sensor data that is provided by the laser mounted onthe base of the MRP system. The costmap consists of a planargrid that is 10 meters by 10 meters in size at a resolution of 0.05 meters per cell. Each hitpoint in a given laser scan isprojected into the grid and raytracing is performed from theorigin of the laser to each hitpoint to clear any previouslyobserved obstacles that the sensor now sees through. Oncethe grid is updated with new obstacle information, inflation isperformed to propagate cost from obstacles out to an inflationradius of 0.55 meters.The costmap is also used to check whether or not a givenposition and orientation of a MRP system footprint collides
 
Fig. 2. The assisted teleoperation software architecture. The user givesa desired command through the web interface, collision checking andtrajectory simulation is performed, and a modified command is passed tothe remote presence system.
with obstacles. It looks up the cost value for the centerpoint of the cell occupied for the footprint and performstwo checks. First, the costmap checks whether the costcorresponds to the inner circle of the MRP system footprintbeing in collision with an obstacle. Next, it checks whetherthe cost corresponds to the outer circle of the MRP systemfootprint being in free space. If neither of these checks aresatisfied, the footprint of the MRP system is rasterized intothe grid and checked for intersection with any cells markedas obstacles.One limitation of the assisted teleoperation software’sability to avoid obstacles stems from the fact that only aplanar laser is used to provide sensor input. This means thatthe software is unable to prevent the operator from drivinginto obstacles that do not intersect the plane of the lasermounted on the MRP system’s base. Troublesome examplesinclude, tables, feet, chairs, etc. The costmap’s internal struc-ture does support tracking obstacle information in full three-dimensions. However, the system used in these experimentshad no three-dimensional sensor to take advantage of thiscapability.
 B. Trajectory Simulator 
The trajectory simulator attempts to find a trajectory thatdoes not collide with obstacles and that is as close as possibleto the original trajectory specified by the operator. To explorethe velocity space around the operator’s requested velocitycommand, we use a modified version of the Dynamic Win-dow Approach (DWA) to forward simulate and select amongpotential commands based on a cost function [16]. In the caseof the assisted teleoperation software, trajectories are scoredby their distance from the operator’s original command andare checked for collision using the costmap described above.If no valid trajectory is found in the window of velocity spaceexplored, the assisted teleoperation system does not allow theMRP system to move.The assisted teleoperation system provides a parameterthat specifies the size of the window to explore around theoperator’s requested velocity. This, in turn, controls howmuch assistance the system is allowed to give to the operator.A small window gives the operator of the MRP system morefine-grained control in the presence of obstacles, which isoften desirable in cases where the operator wants to approachan obstacle, like a person, closely. However, a small windowalso limits the ability of the MRP system to correct foran operator when performing tasks like moving through atight doorway, where a larger window would be preferred.In practice, the assisted teleoperation software runs witha window that allows for 20 degrees difference from theoriginal velocity command’s angular component. This seeksto provide a balance between fine-grained control and theability to correct for errors in tight spaces.
C. User Interface
The operator controls the MRP system through a web-based graphical user interface (GUI). This web applicationshows the user video from a downward-facing camera, andprovides them a simple interface for driving where they draga ball in the direction they want to go with their mouse.The user is also given feedback in the form of an arrowoverlaid on top of the video feed, pointing in the directionthat the MRP system is currently driving. The operator canalso switch between assisted and unassisted driving modeswith a checkbox.V. CONTROLLED EXPERIMENT DESIGNTo evaluate the effectiveness of assisted teleoperation onthis remote presence system, we ran a controlled experimentthat varied assisted vs. unassisted teleoperation within studyparticipants. We measured task performance in terms of timeto complete an obstacle course, number of obstacles hit,etc. We also measured demographic information about eachparticipant, including their spatial cognitive abilities, cogni-tive workload, gaming experience, perceptions of the system,etc. The conditions were counterbalanced to address orderingeffect and learning effect issues; half of the participants wererandomly assigned to drive with assisted teleoperation firstand half of the participants to drive unassisted first.
 A. Hypotheses
Because assisted teleoperation was designed to help op-erators avoid obstacles, we anticipated that the number of errors (i.e., bumping into obstacles) would decrease whenpeople used the assisted teleoperation feature instead of the unassisted control. We did not have a preconceivedhypothesis about whether it would take more or less timeto complete the obstacles course.
H1. Participants will hit fewer obstacles when using as-sisted teleoperation instead of unassisted teleoperation.Because participants may differ in their experience andskills levels, we hypothesized that several of these factorswould also influence task performance.

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