CIDU Presentation at NASA HQ

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Dr. Kevin Knuth was recently invited to give a presentation titled “Intelligent Science Platforms” at the 2008 Conference on Intelligent Data Understanding (CIDU).  The meeting was held from September 9-10, 2008 at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC.  The presentation slides can be downloaded here, or on the CIDU web site.

The abstract follows:

Intelligent Science Platforms

Kevin H. Knuth
Departments of Physics and Informatics, University at Albany, Albany NY 12222
Autonomous Exploration Inc., Albany NY 12208

The exploration of space requires that we continue our dependence on remote scientific platforms. The continued success of the Mars Exploration Rovers highlights the great benefits of navigational autonomy. However, science operations continue to require a team of scientists to select the specific experiments to perform and to precisely guide sensor placement. While this works well on Mars, which has a communication delay ranging from 6.5 to 44 minutes, this model will be strained during future operations on Jupiter’s icy moons, and will most certainly break on future Saturnian missions to Titan and Enceladus. For robotic missions to operate in the outer solar system at a production level comparable to that of the Mars rovers, they will require greater autonomy, not only in mapping and navigation, but also in experimental design and sensor placement.

I will introduce our initial efforts to develop a software-based inquiry engine that relies on a generalized form of information theory called the inquiry calculus. This computational technology enables one to compute the optimal experimental question to ask in a given situation. This technology depends on predicting the probable answers to questions, and selecting the question based on the entropy of the probability distribution of potential answers. I will demonstrate these concepts on a robotic arm that has been programmed to identify and characterize shapes on a playing field using only a simple light sensor.