Artificial intelligence: It's more than a movie
Posted: June 23, 2001

Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will talk about the real artificial intelligence work that takes place at NASA in a live webcast, scheduled for June 29, 2001, at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

The webcast will feature answers to questions submitted in advance via e-mail to our webcast producer.

A link to the live webcast and the producer's e-mail are located at

Dr. Edward Tunstel, lead robotics engineer on the FIDO rover, a test model for the twin NASA rovers that will go to Mars in 2003, will speak about rover autonomy of the past and future. Dr. Larry Matthies, Supervisor, Machine Vision Group, will talk about his work on machines with human vision capability. Barbara Engelhardt and Russell Knight of JPL's Artificial Intelligence Software Group, will answer questions on use of artificial intelligence software on future missions.

With detailed instructions from the scientist back home, smart machines in space function much like a brain and use inputs from sensors that are like their eyes and ears to make decisions. Recently, technology has allowed engineers to create intelligent machines that function independently.

Long before the movie coming out next week, smart rovers such as Sojourner used artificial intelligence to traverse Mars in 1997. The rover had the decision-making capability to move around and decide a path for itself without the help of ground controllers. Artificial intelligence software on NASA's Deep Space 1 was tested in 1998, and in the fall of 2002, JPL will fly the latest AI software that will command the mission for a period of three months. This software will decide which pictures to send back to Earth.

Scientists envision a future colony of robots exploring a planet's surface. A whole fleet of ground rovers, aerovers with flying ability and burrowing, worm-like probes may make up a cooperative mission. These intelligent robots would work together and share data to make multiple science measurements.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.