Human-Robot Interactions in Future Military Operations

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 23 August 2011


Avizzano, C.A. (2011), "Human-Robot Interactions in Future Military Operations", Industrial Robot, Vol. 38 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Human-Robot Interactions in Future Military Operations

Human-Robot Interactions in Future Military Operations

Article Type: Book review From: Industrial Robot: An International Journal, Volume 38, Issue 5

Michael Barnes and Florian Jentsch,Ashgate,Aldershot,2010,$119.95,466 pp.,ISBN: 978-0-7546-7539-6,Web link:,

The dawn of the third millennium assisted a profound change in the role of military operations. The bigger military players cooperate now reciprocally to maintain stability across the world. In this scenario, the military forces act more for civil protection than for battles, and the scenario of their operations is moving from open fields to urban environments.

Hi-tech and robotic involvement are the answer to the new issues caused by terrorism. The early convincement that technologies “as they were” were enough to place armies in a dominant position was contradicted by early usages.

Human-Robot Interactions in Future Military Operations is a novel book in this field. The volume aims at investigating the relationships emerging from the in-depth use of robots in military applications. The approach is that of analyzing the requirements of the interaction from multiple views. The book balances properly technological features of the existing systems against the cognitive requirements of human interaction. Wherever there are constraints imposed by soldier and civil safety, timings and the battlefield scenario are kept in consideration.

The book examines the combined effects and results of development designs by contextualizing them in the huge expertise achieved by the contributing authors. All the guidelines are complemented with real implementations developed within the contributors’ experiences. As a result, the volume is a best read for experts, users, or engineers in the field who are likely to develop or employ these type of systems.

The core of the book is represented by three leading parts.

Part II deals with sociological and cognitive elements of human robot interaction. After a preliminary description of the two major elements in human robot interaction (cognitive psychology and social factors), the part dives inside to the three more relevant elements that characterize the employment of robots for military applications. First, it addresses the ability of the robotic systems to generate a good-mediated awareness of the remote environments. An essential prerequisite is to rely on robotic exploration of hazardous environments; second, it considers the control paradigm, the navigation metaphor and the elements that facilitate the control of the remote robots; and finally, an analytical approach to predict the mental load of the operator is developed. Such a model is crucial both for the operator safety as well as to develop proper operation schedules.

Parts III and IV examine the details of the development for the two major HRI scenarios in military operations: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGV). Four major topics have been discussed for UAV: control of the situational awareness, reliability of the interaction, UAV as teammates, and the effect of visual feedback on the operation quality. UGV instead, is operated in a less structured environment, and hence Part IV focuses more on the mechanisms to allow a quality operator control in a condition of semi-autonomy: the closed loop telepresence control, the use of multi-modal feedback and the multi-task organization are discussed as a first, while the operator control units (OCUs) and the latency aspects are examined later.

Part V examines multiple robot/vehicle operations. This includes both cross environment operations (air/ground), as well as control of robot teams. Different experiences are provided.

Human-Robot Interactions in Future Military Operations is a precious resource for the design of human-aware robotic systems. It conveys in a single text, results of several experiences and represents an important guideline for the design and the use of these systems.

The main drawbacks of the volume are in the absence of other types of human robot interaction. All the interactions considered in the volume are limited in the AUV/UGV scenarios, while newer forms of human robot interaction are likely to be employed in a near future (e.g. power extenders, cobots, etc.). In addition, a clear analysis of the possible application scenarios is missing, thus preventing the possibility to use such a book as a manual/guideline in the design of newer applications, and in the development of newer interfaces.

Conclusion: Human-Robot Interactions in Future Military Operations is an important text for the design of future UAV/UGV systems. It correlates important design factors to the “psychology of use”, the users and groups requirements. The book is well suited for designers and those responsible for human resources in order to develop new generations of systems and, to exploit at best, the existing ones. The analyses contained in the volume cover the majority of applications; however the text would have benefited from a better insight of future directions.

Carlo Alberto AvizzanoDirector of PERCRO (PERCeptual ROBotics) Laboratory of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, Italy