TRACLabs scientists worked with NASA mission controllers to use our PRIDE electronic procedure software during the last two International Space Station (ISS) Extravehicular Activities (EVA), also called spacewalks. The detailed procedure for each spacewalk was authored in our electronic format and mission controllers checked off the activities as the occurred. TRACLabs was present in NASA Mission Control Center (MCC) to assist in this activity. The software proved valuable in keeping all mission controllers synchronized with respect to the progress of the spacewalk.
NASA mission controllers consulting TRACLabs electronic procedure software
In June 2013, TRACLabs competed against 26 other teams from around the world in a DARPA sponsored event that focused on controlling a remote, simulated humanoid robot in disaster response scenarios. See ‘TRACLabs participates in DARPA Virtual Robot Challenge’. On June 27, DARPA announced the results of that competition, and the TRACLabs team placed 4th. Virtual Robotics Challenge Results. As a result, TRACLabs will be receiving an Atlas humanoid robot, designed by Boston Dynamics, to compete in the next phase of the competition in December 2013. In this next phase, 7 Atlas robots will compete against a variety of custom-built robots from other teams in real-world disaster response scenarios.
DARPA sponsored a Virtual Robot Challenge held June 18-20. Over 20 teams competed to complete three tasks: 1) maneuver a robot through a course with mud, hills, and obstacles; 2) enter a vehicle and drive it; and 3) pick up a hose and mate it to a connector. Each team performed each task five times using a simulated robot provided by DARPA. Teams were scored based on completing tasks and subtasks, time to complete tasks, and number of bits uploaded to the robot from the operator control stations. TRACLabs was one of eleven teams to received a DARPA grant to participate in this challenge. TRACLabs was assisted by researchers from SUNY-Buffalo. Final results will be announced by DARPA on June 25. Winning teams will continue their research using a DARPA-supplied robot. For more information see: http://www.theroboticschallenge.org/
TRACLabs team members watch as operators control a DARPA simulated robot.
TRACLabs developed critical software that supported the “Surface Telerobotics” experiment on-board the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday June 17, 2013. Surface Telerobotics demonstrates a future exploration “concept of operations” in which an astronaut in an orbiting spacecraft remotely operates a robot on a planetary surface. The primary objective of Surface Telerobotics is to collect baseline engineering data (from crew, robot, and data communications) to characterize system operation.
During the first test session, Expedition 35 Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy on the ISS remotely operated the K10 planetary rover in the NASA Ames Roverscape outdoor testbed in California. Cassidy used the robot to perform surface site survey and to begin deploying a simulated Kapton film-based radio antenna. Subsequent test sessions, to be conducted in July and August, will focus on completing antenna deployment, inspecting the deployment, and studying human-robot interaction.
Please look at the following video to get more information about the experiment:
TRACLabs is collaborating with researchers at Rice University’s Mechatronics and Haptic Interfaces (MAHI) Laboratory headed by Professor Marcia O’Malley and with researchers at TIRR foundation to build a robotic upper-limb exoskeleton that can assist in physical therapy. Rice researchers recently visited TRACLabs to inspect a preliminary version of the exoskeleton. In the picture below, the exoskeleton is in the foreground. TRACLabs is developing the mechanical and electrical components of the exoskeleton building on preliminary designed by Rice University. TRACLabs is also building software to control the exoskeleton and interface to both the patient and the therapist. This software is following early designs by Rice University scientists.
TRACLabs has just started work on a new Navy contract focused on developing autonomy software for controlling multiple unmanned vehicles. This work will leverage our existing NASA research on planning, scheduling, and execution. TRACLabs personnel will be attending the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Command Decision Making and Hybrid Human Computer Systems Program Review in early June to present our research.
The virtual robot to be used in the DARPA Virtual Robot Challenge
Four TRACLabs scientists just returned from Washington DC where they attended the kick-off of the DARPA Robot Challenge (DRC). The DRC involves either building a robot that can perform disaster relief functions (Track A) or writing software that allows a DARPA-provided robot to perform the same disaster relief functions (Track B). TRACLabs was given a Track B award by DARPA, one of only eleven institutions world-wide to receive an award, potentially worth over $2 million dollars. TRACLabs is partnered with SUNY-Buffalo for this work. TRACLabs will need to compete with other Track B awardees in a Virtual Robot Challenge (VRC) conducted in simulation. The VRC involves a simulated robot driving a cart, walking through a rubble field, and connecting a hose or cable to a socket. The VRC will take place in June 2013. The popular press is already covering the DRC, including:
TRACLabs has just signed a two-year, $2 million dollar contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to design software for a disaster response robot. The software will be used for tasks such as driving vehicles, climbing ladders, using tools, opening doors, manipulating equipment, and clearing rubble. While mostly autonomous, the robot will have supervision from and interaction with a remote operator. TRACLabs is teamed with SUNY-Buffalo on this contract.
The US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC) recently announced that it was awarding TRACLabs a $730,000, two-year contract entitled “PROWL: Perception for Robotic Operation over Widespread Lighting.” The goal is to develop a thermal imaging stereo system that can provide robot navigation information even in the dark. TRACLabs is teamed with iRobot on this award.