Tech Briefs

Software for Collaborative Use of Large Interactive Displays

The MERBoard Collaborative Workspace, which is currently being deployed to support the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Missions, is the first instantiation of a new computing architecture designed to support collaborative and group computing using computing devices situated in NASA mission operations rooms. It is a software system for generation of large-screen interactive displays by multiple users. The architecture provides a platform and applications programming interface (API) for the development of collaborative applications for NASA mission operations. The standard deployment configuration provides an integrated whiteboard, Web browser, remote viewing and control for collaboration over distance, and personal and group storage spaces that provide ubiquitous access and sharing of data. Customization for specific domains is provided through plug-ins. For the MER mission, plug-ins include a flow-charting tool for strategic rover operations and mission planning, 3D visualization of the Martian terrain, a data navigator to navigate the mission database, and situational awareness tools. The MERBoard software is designed to run on large plasma displays with touch-screen overlays, thus providing an immersive and interactive environment for teams to view, annotate, and share data. The MERBoard overcomes the obstacles to communication, retention, and collaborative modification of information in diverse forms that can include text, data (including images) from scientific instruments, handwritten notes, hand drawings, and computer graphics. The MERBoard provides a unifying interface for the integration of heterogeneous applications, and provides those applications with a consistent model for saving and retrieving data. All applications may be viewed and controlled from any location that has a MERBoard. A personal client provides integration of a user’s personal computing environment with the MERBoard environment.

This program was written by Jay Trimble, Thodore Shab, Roxana Wales, Alonso Vera, Irene Tollinger, Michael McCurdy, and Dmitriy Lyubimov at Ames Research Center. For further information, contact the Ames Technology Partnerships Division at (650) 604-2954. ARC-14951-1