A Career that Began in Space
I started working at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley in 1998. After 12 years there, I went to Xerox PARC, where I served as director and ran research on multi-agent systems and human-machine interaction. It was at NASA, though, that I created much of what I’m putting to work for Nissan today. We started with development of a simulation language that allowed us to model human behavior and multiple people working together. We were looking at how people might live on Mars and work with people back on Earth, as well as autonomous systems, including robots and smart habitats on Mars. We started first simulating this with our language, but once we started running this language in real time it also became a programming language for autonomous systems in general.
We started building intelligent agents for robots, for Mission Control and for the habitat. Then we added a speech-dialogue system to this—now we could have astronauts talking to their autonomous system, including the robot and the habitat, as well as to systems in Mission Control. We put it to work in space: We actually built an intelligent agent in the space suit to monitor the astronaut’s health autonomously.
We helped design how robots would work on Mars with people on Earth. After this success, we were asked to automate flight controllers in NASA’s Mission Control Center for the International Space Station. The final project I did at NASA used my computer language to automate a flight controller for the ISS. This system went live in 2008 and it’s still in use, with all communication from the ISS taking place through it.