Project Topics and Readings

The Intelligent Wheelchair is an intelligent robot, sensing and learning about the environment it travels in. This role leads to one set of problems, related to how knowledge of the environment is represented, learned, stored, retrieved, and used.

The Intelligent Wheelchair is also a mobility aid for a human driver, able to act autonomously, but always subordinated to the human driver. This leads to a second set of problems, related to how the human-robot interface can increase the human driver's autonomy while performing a necessary service.

Each student will pick a project topic from one of these two sets. I would like the class to divide approximately equally between the two sets.

Spatial knowledge representation, exploration, and mapping

Our Hybrid Spatial Semantic Hierarchy (HSSH) approach describes the world in terms of several distinct representations for spatial knowledge.

Project topics

If you pick a topic in this area, your term project will be to extend the robotic capabilities of the Intelligent Wheelchair in this area. You will search and review the relevant literature, looking for useful methods, and you will give a presentation on the background knowledge that you will draw upon to solve your problem

Human-robot interaction (HRI)

The human driver (H) and the Intelligent Wheelchair (W) form a partnership between two cooperating agents. Each has their own capabilities, perceptions, knowledge of the world, and degree of autonomy, but the H is the dominant member of the partnership, and W is subordinate. How can they best work together?

Such a relationship relies on trust, and trust is built and maintained through communication, as well as by observing success and failure. How do we think about these issues when one member of the relationship is an intelligent robot?

The Intelligent Wheelchair (W) takes actions, but only subordinate to the autonomy of the human driver (H). W can observe its environment, and can learn an increasingly accurate map while it travels, even though it travels only when and where H instructs. W can make plans and use its own autonomy to carry them out, but only subordinate to H's goals.

Our work is based on the hypothesis is that humans represent spatial knowledge at several distinct ontological levels. These levels of knowledge representation correspond to three distinct levels of human-robot communication: Control, Command, and Goal.

This leads to several more concrete questions about the human-robot interaction and the interfaces that support them.

Project topics

If you pick a topic in this area, you are selecting a major project or research group in the Human-Robot Interaction area. You are responsible for reading essentially everything that your group has done, and giving a presentation to the class evaluating and summarizing their contributions to HRI, and especially for clarifying what that group's work has contributed to the problems we need to solve. Your term project will be to apply what you have learned from your project or group to the Intelligent Wheelchair. You can think of your task as answering the questions: What can we learn from this research? How does it help us achieve our goals? Where's the gold?

Evaluation testbeds

Finding Readings

This page provides starting points for you to find literature relevant to your topic. You should expect to search for relevant material. Some researchers, particularly in academia, are very good about making their publications easy to find and available online. Others made an effort at one point, but the list is now significantly out of date. Some places have web pages that are essentially PR brochures, without useful publications. And some researchers don't even try. Your task is to find the gold, or establish it's not there.

Follow references, search with Google and Google Scholar, look through tables of contents of relevant journals, and so on. (The UT Library has an excellent collection of online journals.) Find relevant sources that tell you about the overall structure of the field. Special issues of journals are often quite helpful. One on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) is IEEE SMC-C 34(2), May 2004.


BJK