Tuesday, July 19, 2016

2016-07-19: Autonomy Incubator Gears Up For HOLII GRAILLE Demo

Lauren Howell and Meghan Chandarana, supervised by Anna Trujillo, measure the projection
of the flight path to ensure it's to scale.
This Friday, as part of the quarterly demo here at the Autonomy Incubator (Ai), our crew will perform the most elaborate, daring feat of unmanned avionics we've ever attempted indoors. There will be gesture recognition. There will be splines. There might be Jeremy Lim in an Indiana Jones hat if we can find one for him. The HOLII GRAILLE demo is upon us.

Jeremy's nickname is Indiana Drones, or Dr. Drones if he's being especially brilliant.

What, exactly, does HOLII GRAILLE stand for?

"Hold on, I've got it written down somewhere," Meghan Chandarana said when I asked. Officially, HOLII GRAILLE is an acronym for Human Operated Language Intuitive Interface with Gesture Recognition Applied in an Immersive Life-Like Environment.

"[Ai head Danette Allen] said it was the 'holy grail' of virtual reality demos, and then we thought, why don't we call it that and make a crazy NASA-style acronym?" Meghan explained.

The presentation incorporates work from all over the Ai to demonstrate what PI Anna Trujillo calls a "multi-modal interface" between humans and autonomous UAVs for the Ai's atmospheric science mission. Anna is the lab's resident expert in human-machine teaming, and her work focuses on natural-language interaction between humans and autonomous robots.

Lauren, Meghan and Anna set up the projectors from the booth.

"We're defining flight paths," she said. "We're using gestures to define that path and voice to tell it things like the diameter of the spiral or how high it should ascend."

"So, Erica's voice recognition work gets combined with Meghan's gesture stuff , that information gets sent to Javier and Lauren and they calculate the actual flight path, and some of that information is sent to Angelica to show the path in virtual reality. And then Jeremy has been working on the communication in DDS between all these parts," she continued.

Danette tries out Angelica's virtual flight simulator.

The indoor demo will make use of our overhead projectors to simulate flying over the NASA Langley Research center, with the flight path and a "risk map" Javier generated overlaid on it.

Javier looks over his creation.

"I've used the minimum distance algorithm I showed you to generate the map," Javier explained. "We added obstacles and weighted the different buildings based on risk." Blue means "not risky," while red means "quite risky." For example, an unmanned system would have little to worry about while flying over a patch of forest, but could cause some problems if it unexpectedly entered the Ai's airspace, so the woods are blue while Building 1222 is red.

A UAV flies over the projected map.

Ultimately, the HOLII GRAILLE demo showcases how user-friendly and safe unmanned aerial vehicles can be because of the research we're doing at the Ai. Combining so many facets of our work to create one smooth mission certainly hasn't been easy, but we couldn't be more excited to see this demo fly.

"We're showing the capabilities of interacting with a system in a more natural manner," Anna summed up. "It's not you fighting a system; you're both on a team."

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