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User Interfaces

Fig. 1: RSVP-HyperDrive displays a graphical version of the rover, which is used to drive the MER Spirit rover and to place its robotic arm on rocks.
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Fig. 1: RSVP-HyperDrive displays a graphical version of the rover, which is used to drive the MER Spirit rover and to place its robotic arm on rocks.
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In all systems that contain interactions between humans and machines, the element that defines the quality of that interaction is the human/machine interface, also known as the user interface. A graphical user interface (GUI) can make the human interaction more engaging and intuitive, constrain user inputs to valid ranges and units, supply tabular and plot-based output where needed, and provide users with data from sensors on the robots that are needed for control.

JPL Robotics has created a number of very successful user interfaces that have been tuned to the robotic systems being controlled. These robots have ranged from multi-arm manipulators for microgravity deployment or terrestrial surgical applications, to legged prototype-rovers for rough terrains, to multi-wheeled rovers including flight systems such as the Mars Pathfinder Sojourner Rover and the Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs), Spirit and Opportunity. Two excellent examples of current user-interface software developed at JPL for the MER mission are:

RSVP

The Rover Sequencing and Visualization Program (RSVP) built upon prior Pathfinder mission software from 1997, which was called the "Rover Control Workstation." RSVP is comprised of two tools:

  1. The Rover Sequence Editor (RoSE), which provides efficient GUI support to all command in the mission-command dictionary and also interfaces with the institutional tool SEQGEN for resource computations and sequence validation. RoSE is used to create all command sequences sent to the twin Mars rovers for every day of the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission.
  2. HyperDrive, which provides multiple 3D graphics interfaces to the stereo images and 3D terrain-model data. It is used to plan all rover motions, including driving over the surface of Mars and complex robotic arm motions to place instruments on sites of geologic interest.

Ongoing activities are modifying RSVP for use in upcoming missions such as the 2007 Mars polar lander, Phoenix, for lander arm-sequence generation.

SAP/Maestro

The science team uses the Science Activity Planner (SAP/Maestro) to create the daily activity plan for MER. The scientists look at imagery and then build up a list of activities they want the sequencing team to turn into sequences for each day. Resources like time and power are negotiated by the chairman of the Science Operations Working Group and used to constrain what is requested. Maestro is available to the public, with some MER rover data sets, at a public website. Ongoing research with Maestro is working toward extending its capabilities for future missions such as the 2011 Mars Science Laboratory (MSL).

Fig. 2: SAP/Maestro, used by MER scientists to create desired activities for rover operations.
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Fig. 2: SAP/Maestro, used by MER scientists to create desired activities for the day.
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