One of the issues in utilizing small robots is control of their initial placement within the environment. To face this deployment problem, INL has developed a Parent robot that can deploy the robots by emitting a “follow me” chirp. In turn the smaller robots utilize a combination of an IR-based follow behavior and a sound-based chirp follow behavior to track the Parent.
The Parent robot not only deploys the robots into a building, but can also assume a monitoring mode. Each sergeant has a different color that the Parent robot uses to visually distinguish the sergeant from the other robots and track its movement. Using this tracking behavior, the Parent can provide visual feedback on a particular group by following a certain distance behind a specified sergeant. In terms of the operational scenario, the ability to autonomously provide visual feedback is a crucial form of support for the operator using AgentCDR. In this scenario, the Parent uses its vision system to autonomously follow the sergeant. The view from the Parent robot’s camera is the view that the operator sees while remotely operating the robots.
Throughout a recent mock deployment of the system in a DOE building, the ability for the Parent to autonomously track and provide visual feedback on the swarm behavior allowed the user to accomplish difficult tasks, for example, guiding a group of robots through a door and into a new area of the building. Rather than adding complexity to the task, the Parent robot’s ability to autonomously provide visual feedback alleviated cognitive load for the operator and augmented the utility of the robot swarm.