NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 03- II F5.02-8101
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Robotics for Crew Assistance, and for On-orbit/Planetary Assembly, Maintenance and Servicing
PROPOSAL TITLE: Panoramic Stereoscopic Video System for Remote-Controlled Robotic Space Operations

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
James Scire, Jr.
87 Church Street
East Hartford, CT 06108-3728
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

In this project, the development of a novel panoramic, stereoscopic video system was proposed. The proposed system, which contains no moving parts, uses three-fixed position cameras equipped with NASA's Panoramic Refracting Optic (PRO) to generate stereoscopic images over a hemispherical work area. This system will provide an immersive remote environment for robot operation during space missions, enhancing operator effectiveness. In Phase I, a prototype imager was designed, constructed, and tested. This prototype was used to record stereoscopic images throughout its hemispherical viewing area. These tests demonstrated that the system can generate good stereoscopic views for any chosen viewing direction, thereby proving feasibility. In Phase II we propose to develop an advanced prototype system with an improved optical design that will enhance the system's imaging resolution. We also propose to couple the system with a head-mounted display, equipped with a head-tracking unit, to allow the user to effortlessly view the hemispherical workspace in three dimensions by simply moving his or her head. The Phase II project will therefore substantially increase the level of maturity of the Phase I innovation. The project will culminate in the delivery of the advanced prototype imaging system to NASA.

The non-NASA applications are also numerous. Remote-controlled robots are often used in inhospitable work environments, such as in the disposal of bombs, the handling of radioactive materials, and the handling of objects in inert/vacuum environments. The lack of moving parts in the imaging system and the ability to seal it against contamination are features that make it ideal for many of these applications. Surveying applications also abound in the commercial/private sector, where the system could be mounted to robots and used in operations such as search and rescue (e.g. in collapsed structures), crime scene searches, and terrain or cavern mapping. Police and military personnel would also find a robot-mounted version of the system extremely useful when scouting areas where dangerous individuals may be hiding. In these applications, the simultaneous collection of all of the video data ensures that the system would see anyone who attempts to disable it before the system can actually be disabled.

The NASA applications of the proposed imaging system are numerous. This system can be utilized in any situation where human operators are remotely operating equipment. This includes the operation of remote controlled robots and the maneuvering of spacecraft during docking operations. Other applications for the imaging system will be in planetary exploration, where the proposed system will be compact and rugged enough to be carried by rovers during surveying missions. The system will enable operators or image processing algorithms to quickly locate objects or locations of interest without utilizing a rotating camera mount.