NVIDIA's Ken Brown reveals details on how NASA plans its Curiosity rover missions in a virtual, game-like environment. Full details over here.
JPL developed the technique to account for the unique challenge in controlling a vehicle 352 million miles away. Since it takes 14 minutes to get a signal to Mars, it can’t be operated like a remote-controlled car on Earth. By the time a driver recognizes a hazard and tells the rover to stop, NASA’s priceless asset might lie in a mangled heap at the bottom of a ravine. So the team developed a simulated environment, like a video game, to test each action before telling the rover to move.
Gizmodo writer views rover environment using NVIDIA 3D Vision
A Gizmodo writer views JPL’s RSVP program
with NVIDIA 3D Vision glasses.
The Robot Sequencing and Visualization Program, or RSVP, is a fully 3D virtual environment with Martian terrain captured by the rover. By inserting a detailed 3D model of Curiosity, and using off-the-shelf 3D Vision glasses, the JPL team can model every movement to see how Curiosity would behave. This not only helps with navigation, but also helps them test complicated movements of the robotic arm (like drilling and recovering soil samples) to ensure each motion will be unimpeded.
On a typical day the JPL team will plot a path up to about 40 meters (130 feet). So the team simulates its movements first, then instructs it where to go and what to do.