An Architecture for Human-Guided Autonomy: Team TROOPER at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals

Research paper by Steven Gray, Robert Chevalier, David Kotfis, Benjamin Caimano, Kenneth Chaney II, Aron Rubin, Todd Danko

Indexed on: 25 Jan '17Published on: 01 Dec '16Published in: Journal of Field Robotics


Recent robotics efforts have automated simple, repetitive tasks to increase execution speed and lessen an operator's cognitive load, allowing them to focus on higher-level objectives. However, an autonomous system will eventually encounter something unexpected, and if this exceeds the tolerance of automated solutions, there must be a way to fall back to teleoperation. Our solution is a largely autonomous system with the ability to determine when it is necessary to ask a human operator for guidance. We call this approach human-guided autonomy. Our design emphasizes human-on-the-loop control where an operator expresses a desired high-level goal for which the reasoning component assembles an appropriate chain of subtasks. We introduce our work in the context of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals. We describe the software architecture Team TROOPER developed and used to control an Atlas humanoid robot. We employ perception, planning, and control automation for execution of subtasks. If subtasks fail, or if changing environmental conditions invalidate the planned subtasks, the system automatically generates a new task chain. The operator is able to intervene at any stage of execution, to provide input and adjustment to any control layer, enabling operator involvement to increase as confidence in automation decreases. We present our performance at the DRC Finals and a discussion about lessons learned.