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In this paper we present the results of a collaborative effort to design and implement a system for cooperative material handling by a small team of human and robotic agents in an unstructured indoor environment. Our approach makes fundamental use of human agents' expertise for aspects of task planning, task monitoring, and error recovery. Our system is neither fully autonomous nor fully teleoperated. It is designed to make effective use of human abilities within the present state of the art of autonomous systems. It is designed to allow for and promote cooperative interaction between distributed agents with various capabilities and resources. Our robotic agents refer to systems which are each equipped with at least one sensing modality and which possess some capability for self-orientation and/or mobility. Our robotic agents are not required to be homogeneous with respect to either capabilities or function. Our research stresses both paradigms and testbed experimentation. Theory issues include the requisite coordination principles and techniques which are fundamental to the basic functioning of such a cooperative multi-agent system. We have constructed a testbed facility for experimenting with distributed multi-agent architectures. The required modular components of this testbed are currently operational and have been tested individually. Our current research focuses on the integration of agents in a scenario for cooperative material handling.
Date Posted: 13 July 2007