Human Interface Support for Information Technology for Mars Research Missions

Professor Simon Carlile, Dr Craig Jin, Teewoon Tan, Johahn Leung, Andre van Shaik

University of Sydney

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Abstract: This paper presents a model system and technology that we are building to investigate the issues important to achieving a psychophysically-adapted mobile outdoor augmented reality (AR) system. These issues are important in situations where human interaction and deployment is necessary and in which unencumbered information delivery to the human explorer is essential. Typical application scenarios for AR technology involve situations in which the overlaying of visual and auditory information onto a real sensory environment enhances the worker’s effectiveness. Relevant to the context of this paper are situations that include the proposed manned space exploration missions (such as of the planet Mars, associated with our point of contact, The Mars Society) and also the Mars Analogue Research Stations being developed to prepare for such expeditions. Our particular focus is developing inter-personal spatial-audio communication head-sets (the talkers’ voices are heard as externalized or out-of-the-head and originating from specific directions in space) that enhance auditory situational awareness. In addition, we are applying image recognition techniques via a head-mounted video camera to provide real-time assistance in the categorization and collection of image data. A transparent head-mounted visual display system (HMD) provides additional visual information to the user.

PROFILE: After graduating with a PhD from the University of Sydney, Simon Carlile spent six years in Oxford University as a Postdoctoral fellow and then a Beit Memorial Fellow and Junior Research Fellow of Green College, Oxford. During this time he worked full time researching in Auditory Neuroscience and tutored at Pembroke College. In 1993 he returned to the University of Sydney as a Lecturer in Neuroscience and established the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory in the Department of Physiology. This very active research group covers bioacoustics, psychophysical, neurophysiological and systems modeling aspects of Auditory Perception. Now an Associate Professor and currently Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Information Technology, his research has resulted in a large number of scientific papers and a book on the subject.

PROFILE: Craig Jin is currently a Lecturer in the School of Electrical and Information Engineering at the University of Sydney. Together with André van Schaik, he heads the Computing and Augmented Reality Laboratory and maintains active research collaborations with the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Sydney. He holds 2 patents in the area of 3D audio engineering and has recently presented 3 tutorial papers on implementing 3D audio at the 2001 IEEE International Symposium on Multimedia Information Processing. Prior to working at the University of Sydney, he worked for 3 years at a successful start-up company, the Virtual Computer Corporation (VCC), in Reseda, California. At VCC, Craig was 1 of 4 researchers who created two series of computers based on Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), one of which won the 1995 NASA Small Business Innovative Research Technology of the Year Award (NASA Tech Briefs 19, 1995).

PROFILE: Teewoon Tan received a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Computer Science in 1995 and a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electrical Engineering in 1997 from the University of Sydney. He is currently enrolled as a PhD student at the same institution working on a face recognition package for identifying suspects in real time from security footage. His current research interests include image processing, pattern recognition, human face recognition, fractal image coding, fractals and chaos. Teewoon envisages computer aided vision technologies as a crucial component of any exploration of the Martian surface particularly as a function of new space suit designs. As a supervisor of the Mars Analogue Helmet Project Teewoon assisted in the integration of several key pieces of technology and oversaw the students in the development of the software interface required to utilize the different capabilities of the project. Teewoon has several patents pending on his software work and is the founder of Tanad Pty Ltd.