Human Interaction With Robot Swarms: A Survey

Publication Type:

Journal Article



Transaction on human-machine systems, IEEE, Volume 46, p.9-26 (2016)


Human-robot interaction (HRI), human-swarm interaction (HSI), multi-robot systems, swarm robotics


Recent advances in technology are delivering robots of reduced size and cost. A natural outgrowth of these advances are systems comprised of large numbers of robots that collaborate autonomously in diverse applications. Research on effective autonomous control of such systems, commonly called swarms, has increased dramatically in recent years and received attention from many domains, such as bioinspired robotics and control theory. These kinds of distributed systems present novel challenges for the effective integration of human supervisors, operators, and teammates that are only beginning to be addressed. This paper is the first survey of human-swarm interaction (HSI) and identifies the core concepts needed to design a human-swarm system. We first present the basics of swarm robotics. Then, we introduce HSI from the perspective of a human operator by discussing the cognitive complexity of solving tasks with swarm systems. Next, we introduce the interface between swarm and operator and identify challenges and solutions relating to human-swarm communication, state estimation and visualization, and human control of swarm. For the latter, we develop a taxonomy of control methods that enable operators to control swarms effectively. Finally, we synthesize the results to highlight remaining challenges, unanswered questions, and open problems for HSI, as well as how to address them in future works.