MART, human-robot interaction, HRI, UGV


One of the problems affecting robot operators' spatial awareness involves their ability to infer a robot's location based on the views from on-board cameras and other electro-optic systems. To understand the vehicle's location, operators typically need to translate images from a vehicle's camera into some other coordinates, such as a location on a map. This translation requires operators to relate the view by mentally rotating it along a number of axes, a task that is both attention-demanding and workload-intensive, and one that is likely affected by individual differences in operator spatial abilities. Because building and maintaining spatial awareness is attention-demanding and workload-intensive, any variable that changes operator workload and attention should be investigated for its effects on operator spatial awareness. One of these variables is the use of automation (i.e., assigning functions to the robot). According to Malleable Attentional Resource Theory (MART), variation in workload across levels of automation affects an operator's attentional capacity to process critical cues like those that enable an operator to understand the robot's past, current, and future location. The study reported here focused on performance aspects of human-robot interaction involving ground robots (i.e., unmanned ground vehicles, or UGVs) during reconnaissance tasks. In particular, this study examined how differences in operator spatial ability and in operator workload and attention interacted to affect spatial awareness during human-robot interaction (HRI). Operator spatial abilities were systematically manipulated through the use of mental transformation training. Additionally, operator workload and attention were manipulated via the use of three different levels of automation (i.e., manual control, decision support, and full automation). Operator spatial awareness was measured by the size of errors made by the operators, when they were tasked to infer the robot's location from on-board camera views at three different points in a sequence of robot movements through a simulated military operation in urban terrain (MOUT) environment. The results showed that mental transformation training increased two areas of spatial ability, namely mental rotation and spatial visualization. Further, spatial ability in these two areas predicted performance in vehicle localization during the reconnaissance task. Finally, assistive automation showed a benefit with respect to operator workload, situation awareness, and subsequently performance. Together, the results of the study have implications with respect to the design of robots, function allocation between robots and operators, and training for spatial ability. Future research should investigate the interactive effects on operator spatial awareness of spatial ability, spatial ability training, and other variables affecting operator workload and attention.


If this is your thesis or dissertation, and want to learn how to access it or for more information about readership statistics, contact us at

Graduation Date





Jentsch, Florian


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program









Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Psychology Commons