UCF will participate with industry and other universities in a $63.2 million, five-year agreement with the US Army to develop smart robots to work alongside warfighters.

General Dynamics Robotic Systems will lead the eight-partner consortium—UCF, Boston Dynamics, Carnegie-Mellon University, California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Lab, Florida A&M University, QinetiQ North America, and the University of Pennsylvania are the other members.

The Army expects the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance (RCTA) to pursue foundational robotics technologies that will enable future human-robot teams to accomplish a wide range of missions, according to Dr. Jon Bornstein, chief of the Army Research Laboratory’s robotics autonomous systems division.

The goal is to relieve soldiers of some of the burdens of the battlefield. A robotic system that can adapt to and learn from a changing battlefield environment would do that, according to Bornstein.

Bornstein compared robotic systems to the way soldiers now work with K-9 units.

“They’re part of the team, and we want these unmanned systems to be part of a team,” he said. “There must be an intuitive bond between the soldier and robot—a trust.”

Dr. Florian Jentsch, head of the Team Performance Lab and joint-appointed in the Department of Psychology and at UCF’s Institute for Simulation & Training (IST), said “Participation in the Robotics CTA is a wonderful opportunity for the Team Performance Laboratory, for IST, UCF, and ultimately for the Central Florida region, to be involved in the robotics advanced research and development program for the U.S. armed forces.”

The Team Performance Laboratory under a previous multi-year alliance with the Army Research Lab studied command and control issues with human-robot teams. Explorations under this new alliance will include intelligence, learning and robot-human interaction. Some examples are how warfighters can form teams with robots that coordinate parts of the team’s tasks and how soldiers might interact with robotic partners that carry weapons and can identify potential targets.

At this stage of the research a significant hurdle to surmount, is the trust issue, according to IST director Dr. Randall Shumaker.

“Science fiction literature abounds with stories of human reliance on robot intelligence gone awry,” said Shumaker. “At the heart of this is a fear of betrayal — a lack of trust. Trust issues also exist between humans, but we have learned to minimize them. We are only just scratching the surface with artificial intelligence.”


  • Florian Jentsch, Ph.D., Director, Team Performance Laboratory, fjentsch@pegasus.cc.ucf.edu; 407-882-0304
  • Randall Shumaker, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Simulation & Training, shumaker@ist.ucf.edu; 407-882-1301