This PhD opportunity is part of the Centre of Doctoral Training in Autonomous Robotic Systems for Laboratory Experiments (Albert). It is focused on developing the science, engineering, and socio-technology that underpins building robots required for laboratory automation. Albert will contribute to the development of autonomous robots that conduct laboratory experiments that are cleaner, greener, safer, and cheaper than anything achievable with today's conventional techniques and technologies. Albert research will tackle significant socio-technical problems for science, engineering, social sciences, and the humanities. The YorRobots Executive and the Institute for Safe Autonomy will provide international leadership for this research area. The students will be provided with a rich research environment offering world-class labs and training opportunities.
Research hypothesis: ARL environments are complex systems that require continuous, time-critical communication among autonomous components, such as mobile robots, to perform independent actions. In the best-case scenario, the system is assumed to work as designed. In contrast, in the worst-case scenario, it is assumed that the communication failure of a single component may halt the entire system, compromising efficiency and safety. However, we hypothesise that in real-world environments, ARL systems may partially work, without complete failure. This can affect the judgement and behaviour of lab technicians and assistants who are automating experiments using human-robot interactions. For example, they may choose to continue the experiment or stop the entire operation. Therefore, in this research work, we would like to explore the effects of human behaviour on ARL operations and quantify communication uncertainties in domain-specific (e.g., chemistry) robot-robot and human-robot interactions.
Background context: Robot failures in generic settings have been researched in recent years [1, 3]. However, with the advancement of autonomous systems, more detailed research and understanding of failures and their different impacts (functional, safety, social, psychological, and emotional) in specialised settings and environments is needed. Wireless and wired communication are critical components of distributed robotic systems and play a vital role in the system's resilience and robustness . However, wireless failures have been studied from the technical (functional, security) point of view, and there is still a lack of research on how they impact other robots and humans within the system, especially in domain-specific lab settings. Additionally, the literature does not clearly define the best methodology for measuring all impacts. For example, how long do the impacts last? How long do humans in the lab remain in a more conscious mode after a robot's delayed action or complete stop? Therefore, this is an interesting research direction worth exploring to build smart autonomous lab environments.
The objectives of this research are to:
- Identify and characterise the different types of communication uncertainties that can occur in ARL environments.
- Investigate the effects of communication uncertainties on the judgement and
- behaviour of lab technicians and assistants.
- Develop and evaluate strategies for mitigating the negative effects of communication
- uncertainties on human behaviour in ARL environments.
This research will use a mixed-methods approach. The qualitative phase of the study will involve conducting interviews and focus groups with lab technicians and assistants who have worked in ARL environments. The quantitative phase of the study will involve conducting experiments to investigate the effects of communication uncertainties on human judgement and behaviour.
The expected outcomes of this research are:
- A better understanding of the different types of communication uncertainties that can occur in ARL environments.
- A better understanding of the effects of communication uncertainties on the judgement and behaviour of lab technicians and assistants.
- Effective strategies for mitigating the negative effects of communication uncertainties on human behaviour in ARL environments.
This research is significant because it will provide new insights into the effects of communication uncertainties on human behaviour in ARL environments. These insights can be used to develop strategies for improving the safety and efficiency of ARL operations.