RIACS Scientist Dan Werthimer Chairs Annual Center for Astronomy Signal Processing and Electronics Research Workshop at the Harvard-Smithsonian in Cape Town South Africa
Dr. David Bell Receives NASA Patent Award for NASA Program Management Tool
RIACS Participates in a Workshop for Collaboratively Modeling the Work Process for Shuttle/ISS Mission Control - [Read More]
| ||BACKGROUND: The Work Systems Design & Evaluation group at NASA Ames Research Center is engaged in modeling and simulating mission operations at NASA Johnson Space Center. The overall objective of the Mission Operations Design and Analysis Toolkit (MODAT) project is to show how detailed mission operations modeling and simulation can be used in the analysis and design of new mission operations at JSC. The hypothesis is that our Work Systems Design & Evaluation approach, using workplace observation and collaborative modeling and simulation of current and future work processes, brings more rigorous model-based work systems engineering to the design of mission operations at NASA. The project’s customer is Dennis Webb (Manager of the MOD Exploration Project Office at JSC).
HIGHLIGHT: We held a two-day (2/24 & 2/27) Work Process Modeling workshop at NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) Mission Control. The workshop was part of a "knowledge acquisition" exercise of mission operations at JSC. The objective of the workshop was to learn as quickly as possible (in two days), as much as possible (talking to as many subject matter experts as possible) about the work process in the Space Shuttle Flight Control Room at JSC.
We used a collaborative modeling approach. This approach is based on a method and a tool for modeling work processes, together and interactively with subject matter experts (SME). The method is called Conversational Modeling. In this method a group facilitator focusses the discussion with SME's on a particular scenario relevant to the work process. In this case we used a scenario of a Shuttle launching and docking with the Space Station. We limited the discussion around this scenario. The objective of the facilitated discussion was to model the work a SME is doing within the scenario.
To do this we use a tool called Compendium, an Open Source, freely downloadable tool (http://www.compendiuminstitute.org). Compendium is essentially a multi-media hypertext database, specifically geared towards capturing and representing information for projects. One of the uses of Compendium is facilitating groups in meetings dealing with wicked problems [Conklin, 2006]. Wicked problems are problems that do not have a simple linear solution.
As part of Compendium, we have developed a systems modeling framework (called World Modeling) in which we can model any type of system, but specifically complex human-machine systems. The work system of mission control at JSC is such a complex human-machine system, and the understanding of how mission operations is done is a wicked problem.
During the two days, we invited several Shuttle control room flight controllers and some of their managers to come in at specific time slots. These were our SME's. During a "SME session," Sierhuis facilitated a discussion about the SME's work during the "launch-to-docking" scenario. This discussion was modeled in real-time in Compendium displayed on a large LCD projection screen, by Selvin as the Compendium modeler. The modeling approach followed a kind of question-and-answer format, in which detailed process and data flows were generated, as well as specific work activities, interaction with systems and communication with other flight controllers.
The result of this two-day workshop is that we collaboratively, with the SME's, modeled the work of six fight controller positions during a launch to docking phase of a Shuttle mission. We modeled the work of a BOOST, FDO, PROX, PROP, FAO, and DPS.
These static Compendium hypertext models will now serve as input for the development of a detailed agent-based work process simulation of this scenario. For this we will use NASA Ames’ Brahms multi-agent modeling and simulation environment (http://www.agentisolutions.com). We will develop this detailed simulation over the coming months. The simulation will enable us to generate relevant metrics about the current work process.
After the modeling and simulation of the current Shuttle/Station mission operation work process we will go back to the JSC SME’s and do a verification and validation workshop. After this, we will improve the simulation model. Then we will move to the next phase of the project. In this next phase we will do another collaborative modeling workshop in which we will collaboratively model a similar scenario, but now for the new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) launch to docking with the International Space Station. This will be a so-called Future Implementation Model of how CEV operations might be done in the future. Comparing the current and future work process simulations and their metrics will now be possible.
PROJECT: Mission Operations Design and Analysis Toolkit (MODAT)
FUNDING: Johnson Space Center Directed Discretionary Funds (CDDF)
MODAT TEAM: Tom Diegelman (JSC), Chin Seah (ARC/SAIC), Bill Clancey (ARC), Maarten Sierhuis (ARC/RIACS), Valerie Shalin (Wright State Univ), Al Selvin (Compendium Consultant)
POC: Maarten Sierhuis, Bill Clancey, Tom Diegelman
RIACS To Extend NASA Developed Technology - [Read More]
World Wind being Adapted for Lunar and Planetary Exploration
World Wind, a 3D planetary world viewing technology developed at NASA's Ames Research Center and released to the open source community, is being adapted by RIACS to support NASA's Vision for Space Exploration.
While rendering data access extremely simple and having the capability of visually overlaying multiple types of information on top of each other - World Wind is being extended to provide NASA mission controllers with a 3D navigable view of the Moon.
"Making planetary data access and retrieval extremely simple is the key to truly interdisciplinary research participation." said Dr. Frank Kuehnel, RIACS Senior Research Scientist and Principle Investigator for Lunar World Wind.
Users of Lunar World Wind will be able to navigate a whole world view of the moon, ‘flying in’ to specific areas of geographic interest. As users get closer to the surface, more and more detail will be become visible. While only topographical data and data from NASA’s Clementine mission are currently integrated, data from other NASA lunar missions, including the successful Lunar Prospector mission will also be added. This includes gravimeter data, neutron probe data, magnetometer data, alpha spectrometer data, and a wide array of additional lunar information.
With it’s ability to remotely access data sets over the internet, Lunar World Wind will bring all of this data together seamlessly, without having to build expensive new infrastructure. Through this distributed architecture, terabytes of information will be placed at the fingertips of scientists around the globe, allowing them to work collaboratively on extraterrestrial mission data.
By layering data from remote sources in a single, easy to navigate, 3D world view, Lunar World Wind will cost effectively bring together over 40 years of data on the moon; data which NASA has spent billions of dollars to collect.
Since the foundation technologies being created for Lunar World Wind have broad application, they will be able to be utilized to develop other 3D navigable worlds. First up beyond the Moon will be Mars, with additional planets to follow.
By visualizing these massive planetary data sets, making them broadly accessible and easy to work with, many more people from diverse scientific backgrounds will be able to contribute to planetary exploration.
For more information on RIACS' Lunar World Wind project, please contact Dr. Frank Kuehnel at firstname.lastname@example.org
RIACS Technology at the Heart of NASA’s Successful Human-Centered Robotics Demonstration - [Read More]
The Brahms multi-agent environment used to develop the Mobile Agents Architecture, was recently featured in a successful demonstration of human-centered robotics. These two technologies were developed by RIACS in collaboration with researchers at NASA’s Intelligent Systems Division located at Ames Research Center.
“The demonstration was a big success,” said Dr. Maarten Sierhuis, a Sr. Research Scientist at RIACS, and co-developer of Brahms and the Mobile Agents Architecture. “We were able to show how many different technology research projects could be integrated into one human-robot collaboration system. Because of the Brahms multi-agent environment the technology integration was done in a short time frame of only 8 months.”
On September 29th and 30th, NASA’s Collaborative Decision Systems program demonstrated the integration of a number of research technologies which allowed a field astronaut to voice-command two robots, with the robots taking the commands and autonomously carrying out those requests. Underlying this activity was a number of individual research projects, providing for autonomous activity planning, autonomous single command cycle instrument placement, voice commanding of robots, human-in-the-loop activity planning, and field data collection and storage.
In the demonstration, the Mobile Agents Architecture provided the integrated workflow for the various humans (such as the field astronaut and mission control), robots (the two robotic assistants helping the astronaut) and databases used to gather information from a simulated Martian surface. Each actor within the demonstration, be it robotic or human, had a Personal Agent, written in the Brahms language, acting as their interface within the Mobile Agents Architecture..
“Brahms was the glue that integrated the robot hardware and software applications with each other and with humans and databases,” Sierhuis explained.
Connecting all of the software together, Brahms software agents had the underlying responsibility of making workflow decisions and facilitating communication between the various entities within the system. The ability for the software agents to communicate with each other allowed communications back and forth between the robots and humans so that they could work together to complete exploration tasks in the field.
For more information on Brahms and the Mobile Agents Architecture, please contact Maarten Sierhuis at email@example.com.
RIACS held a workshop during the International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IJCNN) in Montreal, Canada - August 8, 2005. - [Read More]
RIACS project is testing human-robot interactions in Utah desert. - [Read More]
| ||Two NASA robots and two geologists are now simulating an expedition to another planet during a field test expected to continue until April 15 in Utah's Southeast Desert, near Hanksville.|
During the ongoing 'Mobile Agents Project,' NASA engineers are working to improve human-robot interactions to help NASA accomplish its Vision for Space Exploration to return to the moon and venture to Mars. The wheeled robots are attempting to help the astronaut team to maintain connection with a wireless computer network.
"As you look at NASA's exploration vision to return to the moon and go on to Mars, human-robotic cooperation will be vital to achieve that vision," said Eugene Tu, deputy director for the Exploration Technology Directorate at NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.
"One of our biggest problems is to break out of preconceived notions rooted in science fiction or existing robotic technology," said Bill Clancey, principal investigator for the Mobile Agent project. "By building and testing prototypes, we can test design concepts."
During the field exercise, the researchers' objective is to develop ways to enable robots to take the initiative to work together to help a team of astronauts.
Scientists and engineers from NASA Ames and NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, are taking part in the test. Prototype 'Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Robotic Assistants,' developed at NASA Johnson, will follow geologists and respond to voice commands at the Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station.
According to NASA scientists, human-robotic interactions can best be improved using in-situ experiments, during which people and robots cooperate to do research. Scientists plan to examine the interacting constraints of landscape, distance, work coordination and other factors to suggest what new tools and methods are needed to refine existing technology.
This process will bring together the remote science team, mission support, the habitat and its crew, robots, computer networks and astronauts to simulate planetary surface exploration.
A team that includes about 20 people has placed equipment in and around the Mars Desert Research Station. Team members are using prototype tools, including a wireless computer network, the voice-commanded robots and voice-commanded mission control communication services that partly automate the role of the kind of communications used during the Apollo missions to the moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Researchers are continuing to conduct a series of human-robot simulated geology missions to scout new terrain during multiple days. These simulations also involve the remote science team. Scientists are making audio and video recordings of the activities.
Researchers later will evaluate the data to learn about human-robot interactions including voice commands and work preferences. From analysis of the recordings and other data, investigators can assess equipment, software and procedures. Scientists can then write new requirements and specifications to improve human-robot interactions and cooperation.
Publication-size images are available at: http://www.marssociety.org/MDRS/fs04/
*This article was posted in the NASA-Ames newsletter on 4/12/05.
Willem Visser and the "Automated Software Engineering (ASE) Group" have developed a method for proving properties of looping programs. - [Read More]
BACKGROUND: Software verification is recognized as an important and difficult problem. Model checking is an automatic technique for the verification of software that checks each possible path of program execution. However, checking all paths requires extensive memory for realistic-sized applications. In previous work, we developed a verification framework on top of the Java PathFinder model checker that performs computations symbolically, rather than explicitly, i.e. the framework manipulates symbolic states that represent (very large, possibly unbounded) sets of concrete program states. Therefore, our framework increases the scalability of the model checker. The limitation of the framework is that, in some cases, it cannot return conclusive results for programs containing loops. The framework is guaranteed to find all the errors in a program but it might not terminate if the program under analysis is error free, i.e. it can not prove correctness of looping programs. This is due to the fact that loops may introduce infinite program executions, which cannot be checked with model checking techniques.
HIGHLIGHT: We developed a method that uses the framework for proving properties of looping programs. Properties of interest include input-output behavior, absence of known pathological behavior, etc. The method uses loop invariants, which are computed automatically. It is well known that invariant computation is a difficult problem. An important contribution of our work is a novel iterative technique that uses approximation and refinement for the automatic computation of loop invariants. The technique uniformly handles different kinds of symbolic representations for program data (to encode Boolean and numeric values, arrays and structured data, such as lists or trees) and it allows checking complex properties (i.e. universally quantified formulas that allow one to express properties of structured data, e.g., all the elements of a list contain positive values).
The technique allows for proving complex properties of programs automatically, and it represents an important step towards the automatic verification of complex NASA software. A paper describing the method and its applications was presented at the 11th International SPIN Workshop on Model Checking of Software, Barcelona, Spain, 2004.
In the future we plan to investigate more powerful abstraction techniques in conjunction with our method for invariant generation, to extend the application of our framework (in terms of data domains and properties that it can handle). We plan to extend our framework to handle multithreaded applications, in which several programs (e.g., navigation, control, environment monitoring) execute simultaneously (e.g., mission control software).
Brahms mission operations modeling work presented at Society for Modeling and Simulation International Conference - [Read More]
BACKGROUND: The Society for Modeling and Simulation International (http://www.scs.org) hosts a Western Simulation Multiconference once a year. This is the first year that the conference included a multi-day session on human-computer interface advances for modeling and simulation (SIMCHI'05). The session focused on investigating how humans interact with models, their simulations and analyses, which have been largely unexplored within Modeling and Simulation (M&S). While significant studies exist for physical simulators, only a few have investigated M&S using new technologies within computing, media, and the arts. HCI has increasingly played a significant role in the computer simulation area as HCI technologies increased in variety and decreased in expense. This conference brought together a diverse set of practitioners from simulation, computer science, psychology, new media studies, and the arts to explore and discuss ideas, methods, and tools in which HCI and simulation aided each other.
HIGHLIGHT: Chin Seah presented a paper titled "Multi-agent Modeling and Simulation Approach for Design and Analysis of MER Mission Operations" at the conference on 25 January 2005. The presentation discussed how he, together with people within the Human Centered Computing (HCC) group at NASA Ames, participated in mission operations design sessions and observed operations field tests for the MER mission at Jet Propulsion Laboratory from spring 2002 until winter 2003. The presentation further discussed how Brahms, a multi-agent modeling and simulation tool, was used to model and simulate MER mission operations work practice with the objective of investigating the value of work practice modeling for mission operations design. The presentation also included mission operations designers'interactions with the Brahms tools, their reactions to the simulation output during model validation and Seah's work on modeling MER computer systems and people's interaction with these systems. The presentation concluded with suggestions about how Brahms might have been used differently to reveal human-computer interaction problems with operations software, which emerged during MER training exercises and during the mission.
COLLABORATORS: Bill Clancey (Code TI), Maarten Sierhuis (RIACS)
Maarten Sierhuis is giving a Graduate Course at The School for Information Management and Systems (SIMS), University of California at Berkeley, teaching students how to model and simulate organizations and work practice using the Brahms multiagent environment. - [Read More]
| ||Course Title: Agent-based Modeling and Simulation of Organizations and Work
This course is an introduction to modeling and simulation of human behavior and work practices of people in organizations. Most methods for modeling organizations focus on the process or functional levels of the work. However, in the past decade social scientists and computer scientists involved in social informatics and human-centered design have argued that, if we want to develop better business processes and usable information systems, we need to understand the 'living work practice' of the people in an organization.
In this course you will learn what 'work practice' is and how it can be observed, modeled and simulated. We will look at how to observe and model organizations at the work practice level for the analysis of business processes and the design of information systems.
The course will start with discussing the theoretical underpinnings. The class readings and lectures will review the literature, but a significant part of the class and its labs will be devoted to learning the Brahms multi-agent modeling language. Brahms is a tool developed at NASA for modeling and simulating organizations and work practices, as well as developing intelligent agent systems.
Click here for more information on this course
Frank Kuehnel and Andre Jalobeanu highlighted in story on Apple Computer's website
David Maluf receives NASA Ames 2004 Honor Award - [Read More]
| ||RIACS IPA Scientist, David Maluf receives NASA Ames 2004 Honor Award for Commercialization/Tech Transfer. - 9/15/04|
Naveen Ashish receives Space Act Board Award for contribution to ADIS - [Read More]
| ||RIACS Scientist, Naveen Ashish receives Space Act Award for contribution to Aviation Data Integration System (ADIS): Secure Integration of Aviation Data with De-Identified Flight Data (Part of APMS Software Suite). - 9/08/04|
Click here for more information on ADIS
Ari Jonsson receives Space Act Board Award for contribution to MAPGEN - [Read More]
Maarten Sierhuis presents at Mars Society Convention - [Read More]
Kanna Rajan receives Technology Infusion Award - [Read More]
| ||RIACS IPA Scientist, Kanna Rajan receives Technology Infusion Award in recognition of outstanding work that has resulted in the infusion of technology into one or more NASA programs, projects or flight missions.|
Click here for more information
David Maluf receives Administrator's Award at NASA's Turning Goals into Reality (TGIR) Conference - [Read More]
Robert Filman receives Space Act Board Award for contribution to MER CIP - [Read More]
| ||RIACS Scientist, Robert Filman receives Space Act Board Award for contribution to MER Collaborative Information Portal (CIP) which is an extension of the DARWIN System to The Mars Planetary Exploration Domain Board Action. - 7/28/04|
Click here for more information on MER
RIACS Director, David Bell demonstrates the NX (Knowledge Network) Project, a partnership between NASA and Xerox - [Read More]
Maarten Sierhuis gives Brahms Tutorial at BRIMS '04 Conference. - [Read More]
Kanna Rajan and the MIPS (Mixed-Initiative Planning and Scheduling System) success story. - [Read More]
| ||RIACS IPA Scientist, Kanna Rajan MIPS (for Mixed-Initiative Planning and Scheduling System) will enable the Science Operations Working Group at JPL to generate activity plans during the course of the mission that will maximize the scientific data gathering activities of the rovers and meet the competing needs of various science teams in the most efficient way possible, while at the same time mitigating risk.|
Click here for more information on MIPS
RIACS IPA Scientist, Jim Hieronymus and members of the RIALIST Team recently delivered CLARISSA to Johnson Space Center. - [Read More]
| ||CLARISSA is a system to assist astronauts with procedures by reading procedure steps via spoken commands and providing a hands-free and eyes-free navigation of the procedure(s).|
Click here for more information on CLARISSA
Charles Pecheur is leading the development of Livingstone PathFinder (LPF), an advanced simulation and verification tool - [Read More]
| ||RIACS Scientist, Charles Pecheur in collaboration with Dr. Tony Lindsey (QSS), are developing Livingstone PathFinder (LPF), an advanced simulation and verification tool for autonomous controllers such as the Livingstone model-based diagnosis system. In addition, Charles recently won a NASA Certificate of Recognition for LPF being approved for publication as a NASA Tech Brief and LPF was recently presented at the European Conference on Theory and Practice of Software (ETAPS'04), in Barcelona, Spain, April 2004.|
Click here for more information on LPF