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Predicting the Future Could Improve Remote-Control of Space Robots

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A concept drawing of future space robots.

A new system could make space exploration via robots faster and more efficient, by providing the ability to predict a robot's future movements.

Credit: Blog.Good.Ne.Jp

U.S. Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) researchers have developed a system that could make robotic space exploration faster and more efficient by predicting the robot's future movements.

By building a model of the terrain surrounding a rover and providing an interface that lets operators forecast how the probe will move around within it, the researchers say they can identify potential obstacles and make decisions closer to real time. "You're reacting quickly, and the rover is staying active more of the time," says JPL's Jeff Norris.

Although current methods of communicating with space-traveling robots are safe, they are extremely inefficient. "When we only send commands once a day, we're not dealing with 10- or 20-minute delays," Norris says. "We're dealing with a 24-hour round trip."

By looking slightly into the future, the interface allows a rover driver to update decisions and commands at a much faster rate than is currently possible. The researchers say that aspects of their new interface could be used in the near future, perhaps even with the current Mars rovers Curiosity and Opportunity.

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