NASA Spinoff

As NASA’s leading organization for information sciences, the Intelligent Systems Division at Ames Research Center conducts world-class computational research to enable out-of-this-world capabilities. In particular, this division is dedicated to ushering in a new era of autonomous spacecraft and robotic exploration, as well as extending abilities in space through human-computer interactions and data analysis.

Design errors are costly. When it comes to creating complex systems for aerospace design and testing system readiness, engineering system requirements must be clearly defined, and these systems need to be tested to ensure accuracy, consistency, and safety. Testing a system, however, can require as much as 50 to 70 percent of the total design cycle time. The ability to identify potential problems early in the design cycle saves time and expense, while still ensuring safe and reliable systems. This type of research is of interest not only to the NASA Ames Research Center’s Robust Software Engineering group, but to government agencies and industry, any sectors which build critical, expensive systems, such as control software for an aircraft or the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System’s command and coPartnershipntrol system.

In 1984, researchers from Ames Research Center came together to develop advanced human interfaces for NASA's teleoperations that would come to be known as virtual reality. The basis of the work theorized that if the sensory interfaces met a certain threshold and sufficiently supported each other, then the operator would feel present in the remote/synthetic environment, rather than present in their physical location. Twenty years later, this prolific research continues to pay dividends to society in the form of cutting-edge virtual reality products, such as an interactive audio simulation system.

I/NET, Inc., is making the dream of natural human-computer conversation a practical reality. Through a combination of advanced artificial intelligence research and practical software design, I/NET has taken the complexity out of developing advanced, natural language interfaces. Conversational capabilities like pronoun resolution, anaphora and ellipsis processing, and dialog management that were once available only in the laboratory can now be brought to any application with any speech recognition system using I/NET's conversational engine middleware.

NASA software created to help scientists expeditiously search and organize their research documents is now aiding compliance personnel, law enforcement investigators, and the general public in their efforts to search, store, manage, and retrieve documents more efficiently.

Ever wonder whether a still shot from a home video could serve as a picture perfect photograph worthy of being framed and proudly displayed on the mantle? Wonder no more.

In early 1995, NASA's Glenn Research Center (then Lewis Research Center) formed an industry-government team with several jet engine companies to develop the National Combustion Code (NCC), which would help aerospace engineers solve complex aerodynamics and combustion problems in gas turbine, rocket, and hypersonic engines. The original development team consisted of Allison Engine Company (now Rolls-Royce Allison), CFD Research Corporation, GE Aircraft Engines, Pratt and Whitney, and NASA. After the baseline beta version was established in July 1998, the team focused its efforts on consolidation, streamlining, and integration, as well as enhancement, evaluation, validation, and application. These activities, mainly conducted at NASA Glenn, led to the completion of NCC version 1.0 in October 2000.

In 1992, NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense jointly commissioned the research and development of a technology solution to address the challenges and requirements of communicating with their spacecraft. The project yielded an international consortium composed of representatives from the space science community, industry, and academia. This group of experts developed a broad suite of protocols specifically designed for space-based communications, known today as Space Communications Protocol Standards (SCPS). Having been internationally standardized by the Consultative Committee on Space Data Systems and the International Standards Organization, SCPS is distributed as open source technology by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The protocols are used for every national space mission that takes place today.

While working for NASA, Jack Sculley and Terry Brooks had a revelation. They wanted to find a novel and unique way to present the scientific principles of NASA research to the public, so as to not only enlighten, but entertain. Suddenly, their revelation morphed into something even grander. Why stop at NASA? they asked themselves. With this thought, Sculley and Brooks left NASA and set out to convey voluminous scientific findings from different organizations in the form of digital, interactive media that would enhance the exploration and adventure interests of people of all ages.

Everywhere you look, chances are something that was designed and tested by a computer will be in plain view. Computers are now utilized to design and test just about everything imaginable, from automobiles and airplanes to bridges and boats, and elevators and escalators to streets and skyscrapers.

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