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Context-attentive robot reconfiguration for collaborative human-machine space missions

Isabelle Kien; Manuel Meder; Proneet Kumar Sharma
In: 13th EASN International Conference. EASN International Conference on Innovation in Aviation and Space for opening New Horizons (EASN-2023), September 5-9, Salerno, Italy, IOP Journal of Physics, 9/2023.


With humankind's aspiration of extraterrestrial inhabitation, the need for robotic support is eminent. To master the emerging challenge of providing astronauts with assistive space robots possessing the required adaptability to new situations and tasks under the constraints of severely limited supply chains in extraterrestrial missions, the utilization of existing hardware to its fullest is required. We propose the combination of a concept with an architecture to jointly support context-aware collaboration between humans and robotic systems for implementing effective resource utilization in space missions. The underlying framework is an implementation of a flexible architecture that enables context awareness for robotic systems. It supports processing nodes for retrieval of context information from the raw sensor values as well as further inferences using the output of nodes. Context information spans across three entities and describes the current state of the environment, the astronaut, and the robot itself. This information then can be used to infer the human's current intention as well as influence the behaviour to be executed next. Additionally, dynamic changes in the data processing chains are handled by the framework to facilitate an adequate adaptation of the system to situational events. We combine this architecture with the concept of space robots as a composition from building blocks, which are supported and made accessible by a software toolkit. The modular design approach enables online self-reconfiguration of robotic hardware and software components. In combination with dynamic mission planning, based on ontological descriptions of available resources and functionalities, robots are able to adapt their physical and computational appearance dynamically during a mission according to different tasks and goals. By incorporating these two developments in a joint deployment we envision raising the efficiency of robotic systems in human-machine interaction through the usage of self-reconfiguration as a reactive behavior in order to adapt to a specific task, recognized or derived from a human's intention. Transfer of the proposed idea back to Earth may help to abate resource dissipation caused by deploying specialized monolithic systems with a narrow range of capabilities through utilizing the adaptivity of reconfigurable robots.