Charles Redmond Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

June 1, 1993 (Phone: 202/358-1757) Jim Doyle Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. (Phone: 818/354-5011) RELEASE: 93-100 NASA TO COMMERCIALIZE REMOTE-CONTROL TECHNOLOGY A remote-control technology used by NASA scientists to guide a robot in a recent cross-country test soon will be turned over to private industry. The remote-control technology is being licensed to a private firm for commercial development, said Dr. Antal Bejczy, the experiment Technical Manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. The firm's identity is being withheld while negotiations are in progress. In the test, researchers at JPL used a new, graphically-oriented program to remotely control -- or "teleoperate" -- a robotic arm at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. This teleoperation technique is designed for free-flying robots that would service orbiting satellites, and also has many potential uses on Earth, according to Bejczy. Possible terrestrial applications for teleoperations include nuclear or toxic waste site cleanup, decommissioning of hazardous facilities, special emergency medical operations,

construction and building planning, and remotely operated highway maintenance. In the recent JPL-Goddard experiment, a robot arm equipped with a power screwdriver was placed in front of a mockup of a satellite at the Goddard center. The satellite was fitted with a replaceable module designed to be changed out by astronauts or robots. - more -2The robot arm's job was to insert the screwdriver through a 18-inch (45- centimeter) long hole to reach a latching mechanism that holds the replaceable module on the satellite, then to unlatch and remove the module. Finally, the robot arm was to place the new module on the satellite's frame and latch it in place. Throughout the experiment, the arm was controlled by an operator thousands of miles away in California. JPL researchers developed a software program that allows the remote operator to superimpose high-fidelity computer graphics models of the robot arm, screwdriver and satellite module onto television pictures of the live scene. These synthetic TV camera views make visible the robot's critical motion events that otherwise are hidden from the operator in a normal TV camera view, said Bejczy. "The operator can generate and predict or preview the motions without commanding the actual hardware," said Bejczy. "Moreover, the operator can see the consequences of motion commands in real time, without time delay, through the simulation method overlaying the actual work scene." After verifying an action of the robot arm and its result through the synthetic TV view, the operator then commands the robot arm and tool to actually execute the next action. During the test, computer commands were sent from JPL to Goddard over the Internet computer network. TV views of the robot arm and satellite mockup were sent back to the JPL control

station over NASA's satellite TV system. "The module exchange task was originally designed to be performed by astronauts working in pressurized suits in the Space Shuttle's cargo bay," said Bejczy. "The success of the experiment shows that the same work can be done by robotic hardware controlled from Earth." Bejczy also said that the graphics-based, remote-control technique will form the basis for new features added to commercially available computer graphics software packages. JPL's work on this experiment is being performed with funding from NASA's Office of Advanced Concepts and Technology, Washington, D.C. -end-