NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 X7.02-9143
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Intelligent Onboard Systems
PROPOSAL TITLE: In Situ Training of Robonaut for In-Space Assembly, Maintenance and Servicing

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
American Android Corp.
301 N. Harrison St., Suite 242
Princeton, NJ 08540-3512

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
David Handelman
301 N. Harrison St., Suite 242
Princeton, NJ 08540-3512

The goal of the proposed FieldTrainer control system is to enable astronauts to teach Robonaut on-orbit how to perform new complex tasks using EVA tools. Employing a show-and-tell approach to robot training, the control system acquires rule-based task plans through verbal dialog between robot and astronaut, and acquires neural network-based skills incrementally though verbal, visual, and manual inputs. The project builds upon previous research that demonstrates the viability of verbally constructing non-trivial task descriptions. In Phase I, a simulator for a Robonaut-based Hubble rescue mission is developed. Baseline tool manipulation behaviors are created using an existing behavior development system. Verbal construction of high-level rule-based behaviors is demonstrated. Refinement of motion sequences through verbal training of neural networks is studied whereby perturbations are added to nominal rule-based task execution. The training methodology is also evaluated for its potential use in education. FieldTrainer technology is expected to give Robonaut an unending ability to learn and flightcrews the ability to customize Robonaut's behavior for routine tasks and unexpected situations.

The ability to customize robot behavior in the field in an intuitive manner will prove useful in many NASA human-robot systems intended for collaboration and exploration. FieldTrainer technology will give Robonaut the ability to acquire sensorimotor skills online through operator training. It can also be used to give operators of robotic rovers and field assistants the ability to make in situ changes to mission-critical locomotion and manipulation behaviors.

Commercial applications for FieldTrainer technology include educational systems and assistive devices for the disabled. By combining an interesting robot with easy behavior modification, educational systems can be created that are both engaging and instructional. Educational tools targeted toward middle and high school students can be used to promote learning about robotics and programming. Tools for younger students can be used to reinforce verbal, memory, and problem-solving skills through child/robot teamwork. Robotic assistive devices that use FieldTrainer technology will enable users to customize device behavior based on personal preference, giving disabled individuals greater control over their lives.