Mixed-initiative variable autonomy for remotely operated mobile robots

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1 Citation (Scopus)


This article presents an Expert-guided Mixed-initiative Control Switcher (EMICS) for remotely operated mobile robots. The EMICS enables switching between different levels of autonomy during task execution initiated by either the human operator and/or the EMICS. The EMICS is evaluated in two disaster-response-inspired experiments, one with a simulated robot and test arena, and one with a real robot in a realistic environment. Analyses from the two experiments provide evidence that: (a) Human-Initiative (HI) systems outperform systems with single modes of operation, such as pure teleoperation, in navigation tasks; (b) in the context of the simulated robot experiment, Mixed-initiative (MI) systems provide improved performance in navigation tasks, improved operator performance in cognitive demanding secondary tasks, and improved operator workload compared to HI. Last, our experiment on a physical robot provides empirical evidence that identify two major challenges for MI control: (a) the design of context-aware MI control systems; and (b) the conflict for control between the robot’s MI control system and the operator. Insights regarding these challenges are discussed and ways to tackle them are proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number37
Pages (from-to)1-34
Number of pages34
JournalACM Transactions on Human-Robot Interaction
Issue number4
Early online date2 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the British Ministry of Defence via the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), under their PhD bursary scheme, Contract No. DSTLX-1000074621. It was also supported by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) under the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics Grant No. EP/R02572X/1 and related Grants No. EP/M026477/1, No. EP/P017487/1, and No. EP/P01366X/1. Rustam Stolkin was partly funded by a Royal Society Industry Fellowship. Authors’ addresses: M. Chiou and R. Stolkin, Extreme Robotics Lab, School of Metallurgy and Materials, University of Birmingham, Elms Rd, Birmingham B15 2SE, UK; emails: m.chiou@bham.ac.uk, r.stolkin@cs.bham.ac.uk; N. Hawes, Oxford Robotics Institute, University of Oxford, 23 Banbury Road, Felstead House, Oxford OX2 6NN, UK; email: nickh@robots.ox.ac.uk. Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. Copyrights for components of this work owned by others than ACM must be honored. Abstracting with credit is permitted. To copy otherwise, or republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. Request permissions from permissions@acm.org. © 2021 Association for Computing Machinery. 2573-9522/2021/09-ART37 $15.00 https://doi.org/10.1145/3472206

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 ACM.


  • conflict for control
  • human-robot interaction
  • Mixed-initiative control
  • shared control
  • variable autonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Artificial Intelligence


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