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AI Will Prepare Robots for the Unknown


A virtual NASA robot.

Researchers at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory suggest artificial intelligence could greatly benefit robotic exploratory spacecraft.

Credit: NASA

Researchers at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) suggest artificial intelligence (AI) could greatly benefit robotic exploratory spacecraft by giving them autonomy--an important consideration when robots are out of communication with Earth for prolonged periods.

Recognizing unusual features is one aspect of AI that is highly valued in space research, and JPL's Kiri Wagstaff says, "for new environments, we want to let the spacecraft build a model of normality based on its own observations. That way, it can recognize surprises we haven't anticipated."

AI also enables spacecraft to prioritize collected data based on other needs, such as power supply or storage limitations.

"The goal is for AI to be more like a smart assistant collaborating with the scientist and less like programming assembly code," says JPL's Steve Chien. "It allows scientists to focus on the 'thinking' things--analyzing and interpreting data--while robotic explorers search out features of interest."

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