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Autonomous Navigation by a Mobile Robot

ROAMAN is a computer program for autonomous navigation of a mobile robot on a long (as much as hundreds of meters) traversal of terrain. Developed for use aboard a robotic vehicle (rover) exploring the surface of a remote planet, ROAMAN could also be adapted to similar use on terrestrial mobile robots. ROAMAN implements a combination of algorithms for (1) long-range path planning based on images acquired by mast-mounted, wide-baseline stereoscopic cameras, and (2) local path planning based on images acquired by body-mounted, narrow-baseline stereoscopic cameras. The long-range path-planning algorithm autonomously generates a series of waypoints that are passed to the local pathplanning algorithm, which plans obstacleavoiding legs between the waypoints. Both the long- and short-range algorithms use an occupancy-grid representation in computations to detect obstacles and plan paths. Maps that are maintained by the long- and short-range portions of the software are not shared because substantial localization errors can accumulate during any long traverse. ROAMAN is not guaranteed to generate an optimal shortest path, but does maintain the safety of the rover.

Posted in: Software, Briefs, TSP

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Software Would Largely Automate Design of Kalman Filter

Embedded Navigation Filter Automatic Designer (ENFAD) is a computer program being developed to automate the most difficult tasks in designing embedded software to implement a Kalman filter in a navigation system. The most difficult tasks are selection of error states of the filter and tuning of filter parameters, which are timeconsuming trial-and-error tasks that require expertise and rarely yield optimum results. An optimum selection of error states and filter parameters depends on navigation-sensor and vehicle characteristics, and on filter processing time. ENFAD would include a simulation module that would incorporate all possible error states with respect to a given set of vehicle and sensor characteristics. The first of two iterative optimization loops would vary the selection of error states until the best filter performance was achieved in Monte Carlo simulations. For a fixed selection of error states, the second loop would vary the filter parameter values until an optimal performance value was obtained. Design constraints would be satisfied in the optimization loops. Users would supply vehicle and sensor test data that would be used to refine digital models in ENFAD. Filter processing time and filter accuracy would be computed by ENFAD.

Posted in: Software, Briefs, TSP

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Predicting Flows of Rarefied Gases

DSMC Analysis Code (DAC) is a flexible, highly automated, easy-to-use computer program for predicting flows of rarefied gases — especially flows of upper-atmospheric, propulsion, and vented gases impinging on spacecraft surfaces. DAC implements the direct simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) method, which is widely recognized as standard for simulating flows at densities so low that the continuumbased equations of computational fluid dynamics are invalid. DAC enables users to model complex surface shapes and boundary conditions quickly and easily. The discretization of a flow field into computational grids is automated, thereby relieving the user of a traditionally time-consuming task while ensuring (1) appropriate refinement of grids throughout the computational domain, (2) determination of optimal settings for temporal discretization and other simulation parameters, and (3) satisfaction of the fundamental constraints of the method. In so doing, DAC ensures an accurate and efficient simulation. In addition, DAC can utilize parallel processing to reduce computation time. The domain decomposition needed for parallel processing is completely automated, and the software employs a dynamic load-balancing mechanism to ensure optimal parallel efficiency throughout the simulation.

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Centralized Planning for Multiple Exploratory Robots

A computer program automatically generates plans for a group of robotic vehicles (rovers) engaged in geological exploration of terrain. The program rapidly generates multiple command sequences that can be executed simultaneously by the rovers. Starting from a set of high-level goals, the program creates a sequence of commands for each rover while respecting hardware constraints and limitations on resources of each rover and of hardware (e.g., a radio communication terminal) shared by all the rovers. First, a separate model of each rover is loaded into a centralized planning subprogram. The centralized planning software uses the models of the rovers plus an iterative repair algorithm to resolve conflicts posed by demands for resources and by constraints associated with the all the rovers and the shared hardware. During repair, heuristics are used to make planning decisions that will result in solutions that will be better and will be found faster than would otherwise be possible. In particular, techniques from prior solutions of the multiple-traveling-salesmen problem are used as heuristics to generate plans in which the paths taken by the rovers to assigned scientific targets are shorter than they would otherwise be.

Posted in: Software, Briefs, TSP

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Electronic Router

Electronic Router (E-Router) is an application program for routing documents among the cognizant individuals in a government agency or other organization. E-Router supplants a prior system in which paper documents were routed physically in packages by use of paper slips, packages could be lost, routing times were unacceptably long, tracking of packages was difficult, and there was a need for much photocopying. E-Router enables a user to create a digital package to be routed. Input accepted by E-Router includes the title of the package, the person(s) to whom the package is to be routed, attached files, and comments to reviewers. Electronic mail is used to notify reviewers of needed actions. The creator of the package can, at any time, see the status of the package in the routing structure. At the end of the routing process, ERouter keeps a record of the package and of approvals and/or concurrences of the reviewers. There are commercial programs that perform the general functions of E-Router, but they are more complicated. E-Router is Web-based, easy to use, and does not require the installation or use of client software.

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Automatic Focus Adjustment of a Microscope

AUTOFOCUS is a computer program for use in a control system that automatically adjusts the position of an instrument arm that carries a microscope equipped with an electronic camera. In the original intended application of AUTOFOCUS, the imaging microscope would be carried by an exploratory robotic vehicle on a remote planet, but AUTOFOCUS could also be adapted to similar applications on Earth. Initially control software other than AUTOFOCUS brings the microscope to a position above a target to be imaged. Then the instrument arm is moved to lower the microscope toward the target: nominally, the target is approached from a starting distance of 3 cm in 10 steps of 3 mm each. After each step, the image in the camera is subjected to a wavelet transform, which is used to evaluate the texture in the image at multiple scales to determine whether and by how much the microscope is approaching focus. A focus measure is derived from the transform and used to guide the arm to bring the microscope to the focal height. When the analysis reveals that the microscope is in focus, image data are recorded and transmitted.

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FastScript3D a Companion to Java 3D

FastScript3D is a computer program, written in the Java 3D™ programming language, that establishes an alternative language that helps users who lack expertise in Java 3D to use Java 3D for constructing three-dimensional (3D)-appearing graphics. The FastScript3D language provides a set of simple, intuitive, one-line text-string commands for creating, controlling, and animating 3D models. The first word in a string is the name of a command; the rest of the string contains the data arguments for the command. The commands can also be used as an aid to learning Java 3D. Developers can extend the language by adding custom text-string commands. The commands can define new 3D objects or load representations of 3D objects from files in formats compatible with such other software systems as X3D. The text strings can be easily integrated into other languages. FastScript3D facilitates communication between scripting languages [which enable programming of hyper-text markup language (HTML) documents to interact with users] and Java 3D. The FastScript3D language can be extended and customized on both the scripting side and the Java 3D side.

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