Skip to Main Content
Teleoperation of multiple robots by a single operator has been studied extensively for applications such as search and navigation; however, this concept has never been applied to the field of social, conversational robots. In this paper, we explore the unique challenges posed by the remote operation of multiple social robots, where an operator must perform auditory multitasking to assist multiple interactions at once. It describes the general system requirements in four areas: social human-robot interaction (HRI) design, autonomy design, multirobot coordination, and teleoperation interface design. Based on this design framework, we have developed a system in which a single operator can simultaneously control four robots in conversational interactions with users. Key elements of our implementation include a control architecture enabling the scripting of conditional behavior flows for social interaction, a graphical interface enabling an operator to control one robot at a time while monitoring several others in the background, and a technique called “proactive timing control,” which is an automated method for smoothly interleaving the demands of multiple robots for the operator's attention. We also present metrics for describing and predicting robot performance, and we show experimental results demonstrating the effectiveness of our system through simulations and a laboratory experiment based on real-world interactions.