Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Michael D. Coovert, Ph.D.


human-robot interaction, Rescue techology, Shared mental models, Communication analysis, Field research methods


This field study presents mobile rescue robots as a way of augmenting communication in distributed teams through a remote shared visual presence (RSVP) consisting of the robot's view. It examines the effects of RSVP on team mental models, team processes, and team performance in collocated and distributed Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) technical search teams, and tests two models of team performance.

Participants (n=50) were US&R task force personnel drawn from high-fidelity training exercises held in California (2004) and New Jersey (2005). Data were collected from the 25 dyadic teams as they performed a 2 x 2 repeated measures search task entailing robot-assisted search in a confined space rubble pile. Team communication was analyzed using the Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue coding scheme (RASAR-CS). Team mental models were measured through a team-constructed map of the search process. Ratings of team processes (communication, support, leadership, and situation awareness) were made by onsite observers, and team performance was measured by number of victims (mannequins) found. Multilevel regression analyses were used to predict team mental models, team process, and team performance based upon use of RSVP (RSVP or no-RSVP) and location of team members (distributed or collocated). Results indicated that the use of RSVP technology predicted team performance (Ã?=-1.322, p = 0.05), but not team mental models or team process. Location predicted team mental models (Ã?=-0.425, p = 0.05), but not as expected.

Distributed teams had richer team mental models as measured by map ratings. No significant differences emerged between collocated and distributed teams in team process or team performance. Findings suggest RSVP may enhance team performance in US&R search tasks. However, results are complicated by differences detected between sites. Support was found for both models of team performance, but neither model was found sufficient to describe the data. Further research is suggested in the use of RSVP technology, the exploration of team mental models, and refinement of a modified model of team performance in extreme environments.