Publications / SAND Report

Final report for LDRD project 11-0783 : directed robots for increased military manpower effectiveness

Rohrer, Brandon R.; Morrow, James D.; Rothganger, Fredrick R.; Xavier, Patrick G.; Wagner, John S.

The purpose of this LDRD is to develop technology allowing warfighters to provide high-level commands to their unmanned assets, freeing them to command a group of them or commit the bulk of their attention elsewhere. To this end, a brain-emulating cognition and control architecture (BECCA) was developed, incorporating novel and uniquely capable feature creation and reinforcement learning algorithms. BECCA was demonstrated on both a mobile manipulator platform and on a seven degree of freedom serial link robot arm. Existing military ground robots are almost universally teleoperated and occupy the complete attention of an operator. They may remove a soldier from harm's way, but they do not necessarily reduce manpower requirements. Current research efforts to solve the problem of autonomous operation in an unstructured, dynamic environment fall short of the desired performance. In order to increase the effectiveness of unmanned vehicle (UV) operators, we proposed to develop robots that can be 'directed' rather than remote-controlled. They are instructed and trained by human operators, rather than driven. The technical approach is modeled closely on psychological and neuroscientific models of human learning. Two Sandia-developed models are utilized in this effort: the Sandia Cognitive Framework (SCF), a cognitive psychology-based model of human processes, and BECCA, a psychophysical-based model of learning, motor control, and conceptualization. Together, these models span the functional space from perceptuo-motor abilities, to high-level motivational and attentional processes.