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Hum Factors. 2010 Apr;52(2):234-45.

An empirical analysis of team coordination behaviors and action planning with application to human-robot teaming.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.



We conducted an empirical analysis of human teamwork to investigate the ways teammates incorporate coordination behaviors, including verbal and nonverbal cues, into their action planning.


In space, military, aviation, and medical industries, teams of people effectively coordinate to perform complex tasks under stress induced by uncertainty, ambiguity, and time pressure. As robots increasingly are introduced into these domains, we seek to understand effective human-team coordination to inform natural and effective human-robot coordination.


We conducted teamwork experiments in which teams of two people performed a complex task, involving ordering, timing, and resource constraints. Half the teams performed under time pressure, and half performed without time pressure. We cataloged the coordination behaviors used by each team and analyzed the speed of response and specificity of each coordination behavior.


Analysis shows that teammates respond to explicit cues, including commands meant to control actions, more quickly than implicit cues, which include short verbal and gestural attention getters and status updates. Analysis also shows that nearly all explicit cues and implicit gestural cues were used to refer to one specific action, whereas approximately half of implicit cues did not often refer to one specific action.


These results provide insight into how human teams use coordination behaviors in their action planning. For example, implicit cues seem to offer the teammate flexibility on when to perform the indicated action, whereas explicit cues seem to demand immediate response.


We discuss how these findings inform the design of more natural and fluid human-robot teaming.

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