NRI: INT: COLLAB: Interactive and collaborative robot-assisted emergency evacuations

Project: Research project

Project Details


Many emergencies require people to evacuate a building quickly. During an emergency, evacuees must make quick decisions, so they tend to rely on default decision making that may put them at risk, such as exiting the way they entered, following a crowd, or sheltering in place. When a crowd attempts to exit through a single exit, choke points and crowd congestion may impede the safe flow of evacuees, potentially resulting in a stampede of people and the loss of human lives. Mobile robots are increasingly being deployed as assistants on city streets and in hotels, shopping centers and hospitals. The future ubiquity of these systems offers an opportunity to change how people are evacuated from dangerous situations. In particular, when compared with traditional emergency infrastructure, such as fire alarms and smoke detectors, mobile robots can achieve better situation awareness and use this information to expedite evacuation and enhance safety. Additionally, mobile robots can be used in risky and life-threatening situations, such as chemical spills or active shooter scenarios, which present dangers to human first responders.

This project aims to derive a scalable design framework and develop an embodied multi-robot evacuation system where multiple mobile robots, originally tasked for different purposes, serve as emergency evacuation first responders leading people to safety. In particular, multiple mobile robots efficiently coordinate with each other and actively interact with evacuees to maximize their egress. The project significantly contributes to the understanding of how people respond to a robots' directions and authoritative commands. Furthermore, the project implements these findings and demonstrates their effectiveness using real-world experiments with human subjects. Beyond emergency evacuation, the research findings can be extended to many other related areas, especially those involving cooperative robot teams that are embodied in an uncertain and dynamic physical world with the need to actively interact with humans; e.g., battlefield, law enforcement, urban transportation systems, manufacturing systems, rehabilitation and health management.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date10/1/189/30/23


  • National Science Foundation: $990,462.00


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