Understanding human motion and gestures for underwater human–robot collaboration

Md Jahidul Islam, Marc Ho, Junaed Sattar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


In this paper, we present a number of robust methodologies for an underwater robot to visually detect, follow, and interact with a diver for collaborative task execution. We design and develop two autonomous diver-following algorithms, the first of which utilizes both spatial- and frequency-domain features pertaining to human swimming patterns to visually track a diver. The second algorithm uses a convolutional neural network-based model for robust tracking-by-detection. In addition, we propose a hand gesture-based human–robot communication framework that is syntactically simpler and computationally more efficient than the existing grammar-based frameworks. In the proposed interaction framework, deep visual detectors are used to provide accurate hand gesture recognition; subsequently, a finite-state machine performs robust and efficient gesture-to-instruction mapping. The distinguishing feature of this framework is that it can be easily adopted by divers for communicating with underwater robots without using artificial markers or requiring memorization of complex language rules. Furthermore, we validate the performance and effectiveness of the proposed methodologies through a number of field experiments in closed- and open-water environments. Finally, we perform a user interaction study to demonstrate the usability benefits of our proposed interaction framework compared to the existing methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)851-873
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Field Robotics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We?thank Professor Gregory Dudek of McGill University, the NSERC Canadian Field Robotics Network, and the Bellairs Research Institute of Barbados (https://www.mcgill.ca/bellairs/) for providing the facilities for our field experiments. We also thankfully acknowledge the contributions of our colleagues, namely, Michael Fulton, Cameron Fabbri, Elliott Imhoff, Rachel Rubenfeld, and Marcus Oh for their assistance in collecting data, annotating images, and conducting the HRI experiments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


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