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KMi collaboration tools support NASA Mars simulation

Simon Buckingham Shum, Monday 10 May 2004 | Annotate
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If humans land on Mars in 20-30 years’ time, how will they work with their support teams on Earth? KMi has been supporting scientific collaboration in a 2 week Mars-Earth simulation mission, trialling Compendium and BuddySpace across time and space... Research scientists at the OU’s Knowledge Media Institute (KMi) were immersed in a ‘deep simulation’ exercise with NASA during April and May, deploying team collaboration technologies built at the OU which could one day support astronauts as they explore the surface of Mars. At the Mars Society Desert Research Station in the Utah desert, a team of geologists, programmers, engineers and social scientists has been experiencing life and work in a prototype of the habitat (‘the Hab’) in which they would live if working on the surface of Mars. As part of this exercise, and supported by mobile robots, they conduct a series of geological surface explorations collecting rock samples, and analysing the data on their return. The Hab Crew uses the Compendium software developed in KMi by Dr. Simon Buckingham Shum, Michelle Bachler and Al Selvin, to plan their explorations and analyse multimedia data. Moreover, since it will be impractical to physically co-locate all relevant experts who might be needed in a multi-year mission to Mars, they have to support scientific teamworking across time and space, using the information networks of the future. Compendium is therefore also being used to connect the Crew with their colleagues on ‘Earth’ (a team spread across the US) who hold daily internet meetings to provide expert feedback to the Crew. As science data is gathered by the astronauts, it is sent back over a 5km wireless network to NASA's ScienceOrganizer system back in the Hab, and mirrored in the Compendium system for joint analysis by scientists on both Mars and Earth. Compendium is used to capture discussions in face-to-face meetings in the Crew Habitat, as well as virtual meetings over the internet held by scientists on Earth. KMi ‘social software’ is also being used to connect scientists around the globe. The BuddySpace system, developed by KMi's Jiri Komzak and Martin Dzbor working with KMi’s Chief Scientist, Professor Marc Eisenstadt, provides instant text messaging and a visual sense of colleagues’ online presence and availability. Scientists can see at a glance when their various colleagues (in multiple time zones) come online, and open up an instant text chat session. How can scientists on Earth ‘attend’ and feed into a meeting of their colleagues on Mars? Working with University of Southampton, the Crew’s planning meetings are videoed and converted into a digital video replay of the meeting for ‘Earth’ within a few hours. In the link below to the RST-Communcation Systems report, you can see the Web-based Meeting Replay Tool. If the Earth scientists want to see the discussion prior to a particular Decision, they can jump to the point in the meeting when that node was recorded. Simon Buckingham Shum: S.Buckingham.Shum@open.ac.uk Marc Eisenstadt: M.Eisenstadt@open.ac.uk

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