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About NIFTi
NIFTi is about human-robot cooperation. About teams of robots and humans doing tasks together, interacting together to try and reach a shared goal. NIFTi looks at how the robot could bear the human in mind. Literally. When determining what to do or say next in human-robot interaction; when, and how. NIFTi puts the human factor into cognitive robots, and human-robot team interaction in particular.   Each year, NIFTi evaluates its systems together with several USAR organizations. Rescue personnel teams up with NIFTi robots to carry out realistic missions, in real-life training areas. 

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NIFTi use case & platform design meeting

The consortium met at the Instituto Superiore Antincendi in Rome, Italy to consolidate the specifications of the use cases and the platforms (rover, UAV).

"When in Rome ... do as the Romans do," it is said. What better place than to visit, when we'd like to discuss the project use cases, and see how we could carry them out in real-life training areas? 

On May 17-18 2010, members of the NIFTi consortium met at the Instituto Superiore Antincendi in Rome, to discuss use cases and platform designs. Over the last few months, we had been meeting in smaller groups with our end user organizations to set up requirements and specifications. Now, the goal was to consolidate the specifications. 

To guide development in NIFTi, we have adopted a roadmap. This roadmap takes us through progressively more complex missions. This "complexity" reflects both the robot factor (what the robot needs to be capable of doing), and the human factor (what roles the human plays, and under what time-stress). The development of this complexity pretty much follows the standards as laid down in the NIST USAR performance measurement standards. 

What we add is that, from the beginning, all missions are set in real-life environments. Real rubble, real water. Real smoke, too -- and controlled fire points, to model static and dynamic threats to humans and robots. The complexity still evolves as per the roadmap -- but we ground everything in real use cases. 

  • Years 1 and 2: Disasters in open spaces (yellow/orange complexity). The goal is situation assessment in a smokey environment, with structured obstacles, and fire points. Examples are a structural fire in an industrial complex, or a multiple vehicle accident in a tunnel. We use teams consisting of a remote human operator, a UAV, and a rover.  
  • Years 3 and 4: Disasters in mixed confined/open space (red complexity). The goal is situation assessment and/or victim detection in a smokey environment, with smoke and (dis)continuous fire points. The environment is complex, mixing confined and open spaces at multiple levels. Examples are a CBNR accident in a railway yard, and victim search in a collapsed house or industrial building. We use teams consisting of  in-field and remote human operators, a UAV, and a rover. 
All of the use cases balance "autonomy" with "shared control" in what are essentially combined missions. The Operational Training Area we visited in Montelibretti (near Rome) provides several excellent opportunities to investigate these use cases (see also the photos in the album on our NIFTi facebook page!). 
The plan now is to develop a basic system architecture for a ground rover, and run preliminary experiments in a Tunnel Accident area ... to investigate what the real problems are! Literally.  
Our UAV (built by Fraunhofer) will become available by the end of August, and our rover (built by BlueBotics) not long after that. Till then, we will be using existing platforms, like a Pioneer P3-AT (DFKI), VolksBot (Fraunhofer), or a Mars Rover (ETH Zurich). 
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