NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:03-F2.02-8875 (For NASA Use Only - Chron: 034130)
SUBTOPIC TITLE:Multi-agent and Human-centric Systems Technologies
PROPOSAL TITLE:Evolvable Work-Practice Interfaces Between Humans and Agents

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Charles River Analytics Inc.
625 Mount Auburn Street
Cambridge ,MA 02138 - 4555
(617) 491 - 3474

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Subrata K. Das
625 Mount Auburn Street
Cambridge ,MA  02138 -4555
(617) 491 - 3474
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

NASA science researchers and payload specialists will be supported in their tasks by increasingly complex computational components. Whether these are agents monitoring life support modules during space missions, or software enabling remote science experiments, the components will interact with humans in distributed virtual workgroups. This reality necessitates that we efficiently reconcile two fundamentally different work paradigms: the meticulously planned and controlled world of agents, and the situated, social, context-dependent approach to task execution specific to humans. This proposal investigates the development of interfaces between humans and agents that make the activities of both categories of participants efficient, effective, and robust, while allowing them to operate within their specific work paradigms. Since the work activities in which the mixed human-agent groups will engage will be novel and one-of-a-kind, interface developers will not be able to benefit from the extensive usability feedback available to commercial software developers. Instead, we propose a methodology which: 1) enables the early use of work-practice simulation to identify situations of potentially unsafe or inefficient human-agent interaction; 2) enables the human-agent interface to evolve into a system component supporting maximum human-agent synergy; and 3) which leverages NASA?s BRAHMS work-practice simulation environment.

The proposed human-agent interface development technology will have immediate benefits for the design of future interfaces between astronauts and systems on board the International Space Station (ISS). The proposed approach will leverage current efforts to develop interfaces with life-support systems, and the available knowledge and experience collected on astronaut work practices on board the ISS. The proposed technology will be applicable to the development of interfaces with the Personal Satellite Assistant, and with other robots requiring close interaction with humans. Similarly, it will support the development of control interfaces for robot missions and remote scientific experiments.

The proposed approach will find applications for supporting human-agent interactions in the increasingly complex environment of Air Traffic Management, and in other similar mission-critical environments. The evolvable work-practice human-agent interface development technology will be available for integration in generic mixed human-agent environments, allowing developers to design and customize interfaces for specific work tasks. A wide category of applications will include the development of interfaces for human-robot coordination.