SBIR 2003 Phase I: BrahmVE platform for design and test of Large Scale Multi-agent Human-centric Mission Concepts

2003 SBIR Phase I Technical Proposal
BrahmVE Platform for Design and Test of
Large Scale Multi-agent Human-Centric Mission Concepts

in the topic

F2.02 Space Flight
Proposal #9819






Table of Contents



Identification and Significance of the Innovation



Technical Objectives



Work Plan



Related R/R&D



Key Personnel and Bibliography of Directly Related Work



Relationship with Phase II or Future R/R&D



Company Information and Facilities



Subcontracts and Consultants



Commercial Applications Potential



Similar Proposals and Awards


Part 2 - Identification and Significance of the Innovation

2.1   Identifying the Challenge: Management of ISS and other future missions may require the employment of large-scale multi-agent human-centered technologies

Today, NASA is building craft that are too large and complex to be able to have full-scale operational physical doubles on Earth to assist in troubleshooting and training. In addition, efficient and safe day-to-day operation of longer duration missions requires a deeper understanding of design for human work practice, psychology and teamwork. Add to the mix a substantially increased number of subsystems and people and centers in support roles, and there is a real risk that the complexity of operational environments can overwhelm crew and mission control, leading to critical errors.

On August 16, 2002, the following news item appeared in the wires of the Associated Press [see bibliographic reference 1 in section 5.3]:

Whitson and the space station's veteran commander, Valery Korzun, got off to a late start installing the Russian cosmic-debris shields. They evidently forgot to open an oxygen valve in their spacesuits while getting dressed, and the air lock had to be repressurized so they could open their suits and fix the problem.

By the time the spacewalkers finally opened the hatch, 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the South Atlantic, almost two hours had been wasted…

Because of the late start, Russian flight controllers cut the spacewalk short at 4 1/2 hours. The retrieval of a collection tray for measuring jet residue was put off, as was wiping the area for signs of contamination.

The above story illustrates an event in the day in the life aboard the most complex of these vehicles to date, the International Space Station (ISS). In this case, the mistake was easily resolved without danger to the mission. However a similar error aboard a human mission in transit to Mars might prove fatal, especially if a failed micro-meteor shield needs to be replaced in an emergency. 

This solicitation responds to the above type of mission complexity overload, calling for the development of a broad spectrum of single and multi-agent human-centric technologies to enable robust, self-learning and evolvable systems with varying degrees of system level autonomy. The existence of such robust and flexible human-agent “cognitive prostheses” will empower pre-flight training, improve operational effectiveness, enhance safety and enable a wide variety of new missions in the 21st Century, whether they be space stations, robotic planetary orbital and surface explorers or human missions back to the moon or planets. Indeed with increasing crew maintenance overhead in more complex space stations and relatively short mean-times-to-failure of some current spacecraft components, one cannot conceive of reaching Mars with a human crew without large scale agent systems designed to ensure both vehicle and crew health.

Virtual environments assume a critical new role in satisfying the need to train for and to manage mission complexity

In just the past half-decade, NASA and its collaborators have made great progress toward the vision of effective human-machine augmentation. Computing architectures such as APEX [2,3] and Brahms [4,5,6,7,8,9] (see Figure 1 for a section of Brahms AgentViewer user interface below), which support multi-agent simulation with humans-in-the-loop, have been developed.

Figure 1: Interface view from Brahms AgentViewer

Figure 2: STS-61, the 1993 Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Repair mission team using VR training simulator

Figure 3: Computer generated scene depicting the HST capture and EVA repair mission for mission planning

NASA began to use virtual environments and teleoperations in the 1970s culminating in the extensive use of VR in crew training for 1993 STS-61 Hubble Repair mission (figures 2,3)  [10,11]. The JSC VR Laboratory, projects at other NASA centers [12] and the ARC/JPL use of a virtual environment for the 1997 Pathfinder Mars mission [13] suggested that synthetic environments would become key tools in all aspects of future missions.

Figure 4: Robonaut in tests at JSC, June 2003

Figure 5: PSA exterior instrumentation

Figure 6: 3D exterior reconstruction from Intelligent Virtual Station

Recently the SimStation and Intelligent Virtual Station (figure 6) at ARC [14,15] and the use of VR and virtual worlds in projects to assist with the development of robotic agents including PSA (figure 5) at ARC [16,17,18], DART and Robonaut (figure 4) at the Dexterous Robotics Laboratory at JSC [19,20] has brought virtual environments to the forefront as a design tool to create flight-ready robotic hardware.

Elsewhere, industry, government and university laboratories have developed VE environments for training and design/test, including Transom Jack [21], Steve from USC [22], environments for submersibles and navy operations at the MOVES Institute at the Naval Postgraduate School [23,24] and many more projects too numerous to list here.

2.2 BrahmsVE: the evolution of an innovation

BrahmsVE is the result of three years of intense work among the Brahms teams at RIACS, NASA, and DigitalSpace beginning with an STTR in 2000 [25], continuing with work to model EVA and day to day operations aboard the FMARS/Haughton-Mars Project analogue habitats (figures 7,8) [26] and leading to a specification for the OWorld and Brahms interfaces [27]. In 2002 Digital Space completed several “day in the life” scenarios aboard FMARS (figure 9) [26] as well as a concept project for Geoff Briggs at ARC and MER outreach (figure 10) for presentation at JPL [29]. Finally in 2003, BrahmsVE was developed further to support simulation of PSA aboard ISS (figure 11) [30] and an extensive water tank filling simulation for FMARS (figures 12, 13, 14).

2000-2001 (STTR and RIACS support)

Figure 7: Modeling of virtual environment for the HMP/FMARS habitat, rover and astronaut from first BrahmsVE feasibility project

Figure 8: Scenario of the Bill Clancey agent astronaut enacting a complex animation sequence inside the virtual FMARS habitat

2002 (RIACS and DigitalSpace)

Fig 9: Planning meeting simulation from 2002 BrahmsVE project to model a day in the life of the FMARS analogue Mars habitat

Figure 10: MER rover modeled for JPL concept presentation

2003 (SBIR and RIACS)

Figure 11: Modeling PSA inside ISS engaging in a tool location and reporting exercise, utilizing a laser pointer

Figure 12: Figure from water tank scenario

Figure 13: New exterior FMARS view

Figure 14: Water pump station

In As a result of the success of these projects we believe that BrahmsVE is uniquely qualified as a highly innovative and capable test bed for multi-agent human-centric simulation for system design, training and operations. We will now enumerate the architectural components of BrahmsVE.

BrahmsVE components

A virtual environment by itself is of little use without a powerful back-end architecture that can represent the complexity of human-machine systems. For over a decade, teams at NYNEX, the Institute for Research on Learning and now, at Agent iSolutions, working with NASA Ames and RIACS, have been developing Brahms, an intelligent multi-agent environment used for modeling, simulating and analyzing work practice. Brahms is a data driven (forward chaining) discrete event environment usable for simulation purposes as well as for agent-based software solutions requiring the use of intelligent agents. From Brahms documentation:

Brahms allows us to model the work activities of each type of role, and each individual (or artifact) playing that role in an organization. The focus of a Brahms model is on the context of work, meaning, how does the work really happen. One of the essential requirements for Brahms is that we can model collaboration and coordination between people working on one task, as well as that people can work on more than one task at a time, and are interrupted and able to resume their activities where they left off [31].

Prior to the partnership with DigitalSpace, Brahms models could only be viewed in execution using a timeline bar chart-style interface (figure 1). It was determined that Brahms could become a much more effective tool if it were to include interface that allowed realistic reconstruction and interaction with 3D scenes representing the real world people and systems being modeled.

Three years of development described above have resulted in the following architecture connecting Brahms with Digital Space’s OWorld platform, the Adobe Atmosphere 3D browsers and many additional subsystems (see figure 15). The entire environment allows researchers to develop and operate networked simulations within a standard web browser on ordinary consumer personal computers with no special equipment. The entire BrahmsVE package is therefore easier and much lower cost to operate, develop models for and to introduce into geographically separated teams.

Figure 15: Current high level process architecture for BrahmsVE platform

Part 3 - Technical Objectives

3.1 The Objective

It is clear that a major function of the ISS over the next decade will be as a test-bed and living laboratory for the development and long-duration certification of multi-agent, human-centric robotic and software systems. Indeed, the primary scientific and engineering output of the ISS may well be that of a body of practice and design experience in agent-based systems that can be applied to both future NASA missions as well as commercial applications back on Earth.

To help to coalesce that body of practice, the islands of isolation that now exist between groups working on human-agent systems for ISS need to be bridged. It is proposed in this SBIR that we undertake a proof-of-concept project that creates a macro-scale simulation of a future ISS on which multiple agent systems are deployed. It is hoped that such a simulation, built through a process of consultation and utilizing the BrahmsVE platform can be made available online to researchers from several NASA centers and their collaborators and provide another mechanism for future collaboration across teams.

Figure 16: Visions of ISS with PSA and Robonaut in action in interior and exterior operations

Picture the ISS in a future configuration (figure 16 above) where a battery of semi-autonomous and tele-operated agents and virtual environments for visualization and management of Station activities join the human expedition:

·         Three or more flight-ready Robonauts connected by tele-operation to ISS or shuttle crew and ground-based controllers are stationed on the exterior structure.

·         Three interior Personal Satellite Assistants available to semi-autonomous operations by mission control or crew, two additional PSA’s are parked on the exterior of ISS and able to operate as free flying orbital observers inspecting the station, allowing another eye on EVA activities or flying by shuttles for tile inspections.

·         Crew clothing and suits are each fully configured with health and status sensors and all garments can operate as autonomous agents in their own right, informing crew and controllers about the status and position of crew as well as the local environment (temperature, pressure, composition of atmosphere).

·         A future generation Intelligent Virtual Station, which is updated in real time by sensors on all key onboard components is made available to both ISS mission controls and gives controllers a much improved cognitive.

This SBIR phase 1 proposes to extend the current BrahmsVE platform to create a unified space station simulation that embodies the above “macro view” of several classes of agent, multiple crew members and activities aboard a future hypothetical ISS.

Prior Brahms ISS modeling

In 2002 and 2003 the Brahms team completed a number of Brahms models to reconstruct activities aboard the ISS [8,9]. From the conclusions of the Brahms paper [9]:

The combination of a work practice based analysis of the crew activities, and an agent-based approach to their representation offers powerful instruments, both for studying, and then influencing, human activities in manned space missions. Consequentially, our ongoing efforts to model emergency scenarios might be useful to predict ISS crew behaviors and their outcomes. In our continued research we are also exploring the use of the ISS model as part of an environment for teamwork between ISS crews and onboard software assistants and robotic systems, and as a short term planning and scheduling tool for mission planners.

This preliminary work will serve as the basis for the creation of a scenario for our BrahmsVE simulation. This scenario will be developed from a series of interviews to be conducted with the major stakeholders in ISS future technologies at several NASA centers (see work plan below).

New elements to be constructed: the BrahmsVE Agent Broker

For this phase I SBIR project we will be building a new control module to the “Agents” functional block of figure 15. This will be an “Agent Broker” (see figure 17 below) which will provide a means to provide communications and scheduling of all agent activities, reporting of exceptions and driving a unified user interface to all agent activities.

Figure 17: schematic specification for the Agent Broker

The Agent Broker will bring a subsumption architecture to the BrahmsVE agent space and enable the following new capabilities in BrahmsVE:

1.      Serve as a versatile switching center between multiple software agents and eventually supporting agents implemented in hardware (such as PSA, mobile agents or Robonaut).

2.      Provide user interface controls (skins in HTML) to allow human operators to view and control potentially large "swarms” of agents.

3.      Broker communications from human operators acting as avatars within the simulations.

4.      Act as a special centralized communications module to talk to the BrahmsVE SQL/PHP Database and thereby to Brahms to communicate all actions that affect agents

5.      Employ as its communications protocol the new Extensible Modeling and Simulation Framework (XMSF) and XML-based communications framework for simulation and agents (developed at the Naval Postgraduate School MOVES Institute).

6.      Multiple brokers would be supported for distinct classes of agents.

This Agent Broker is the key new technology that will be developed to power the hypothetical ISS test virtual environment in BrahmsVE.

New 3D models and scripts

We will extend our existing 3D model of the interior of the ISS (figure 11) to include full exterior views of a hypothetical future ISS configuration, and then build Brahms models and 3D reconstructions of Robonaut, interior and exterior PSA, sensored crew suits and implement a basic script to represent some of the ten major ISS systems (table 1).

Table 1: Major ISS systems

1.      Command and Data Handling

2.      Communications and Tracking

3.      Operations Local Area Network

4.      Inventory Management System

5.      Guidance, Navigation and Control

6.      Electrical Power System

7.      Thermal Control System

8.      Environmental Control and Life Support System

9.      Structures and Mechanisms

10.  Robotics

Construction of Brahms models, test, measure, and report

DigitalSpace will implement all Brahms models and export the scenarios developed through the existing Brahms actions sequences and synchronous communications capabilities available through the BrahmsVE SQL/PHP back-end database. Scenarios will be coded and tested against storyboards described by expert advisors in ISS simulation and agent development at several NASA centers. Exceptions encountered in the scenarios and lessons learned will be incorporated in a report back to the advisors. This cycle was accomplished in our work in 2003 with the simulation of PSA utilizing a laser pointer in teamwork applications on a virtual ISS [30]

Part 4 - Work Plan

The project will commence with extensive consultation with expert advisors at several NASA centers as well as contractors and university collaborators. We have already contacted the PSA and Intelligent Virtual Station (IVS) teams at ARC, the Robonaut group at JSC, and will engage the ISS training teams at MSFC and others. A series of standard questions will be posed and telephone, in-person and online interviews carried out to create storyboards of the “day in the life” of a hypothetical agent-enabled future ISS.

The second third of the project will focus on the building of the agent broker software module and the 3D reconstructions of ISS with the new simulated agent elements such as Robonaut and PSA. In this phase we will also develop Brahms models for the entire scenario, focusing on human activities supported by agent assistants in a complex task such as an EVA.

The final third of the project will see final assembly and test of the agent broker together with Brahms models, the 3D elements of the simulation and execution of the simulation.

Throughout the second and third portions of the project, all consulted teams will be able to view progress and the final simulation through a standard web browser interface running the OWorld/Adobe Atmosphere BrahmsVE plug-in. At the end of the project, a full report of the successes and limitations of the simulation will be delivered to all consulting groups and their input sought for possible Phase II project proposals, if Phase II is to be solicited.

4.1       Project Work Plan by task

Table 2 below provides our projected allocation of hours by labor category for the eleven major tasks in this Phase I work plan and corresponds to our proposed budget.

Table 2: Work Plan










Expert interviews to establish storyboards for likely scenarios of agent activities aboard a future ISS








Design of a unified scenario embodying activities in a “day in the life” of an agent-enabled ISS








Design and building of Agent Broker








Creation of 3D models for interior spaces, for ISS exterior and all agent and human figures








Implementation of Brahms models scripted to the 3D models operating under the control of the Agent Broker








Bringing up of the first interior and exterior views, test








Integration of interior and exterior scenarios into a single simulation








Initial testing of environment, sharing with expert advisors








Iteration of environment and scenarios








Finalization of scenarios and models








Project report generation








All tasks:







Total of all hours: 877

Where the roles are defined as:

PI         =          Principal Investigator

PM       =          Program Manager

TE        =          Technical Experts

SE        =          Software Engineer

CD       =          Content Developer

TG       =          Test Group

4.2       Project Reference Website

The Project Reference Website will be a center for ongoing progress and resources surrounding the project, from the interview phase to the simulation evaluation. The site will consist of the following components:

4.3   Project Work Schedule

This section describes the work schedule for the Phase I effort (see Table 3 below).  DigitalSpace work is to be coordinated from its corporate offices located near Santa Cruz California. DigitalSpace design and testing teams are located at several places around the United States and internationally. This schedule assumes a five-month project duration.

Table 3: Work Schedule

Month and Phases






Expert Interviews




Creation of architectural plan, specifications




Commencement of software and content development






Mid Point Project Review





Completion of development, commence testing




Testing and iterative development



Final testing



Final Phase I Report




¦ = Specification and or Design & Documentation

d = Software and Content Development

t = Software Testing

+ = Status Report

* = Final Report

Part 5 - Related R/R&D

DigitalSpace has been engaged in the development of virtual world platforms for eight years and has successfully completed a number of major projects (see Part 8.1 below). The PI and members of DigitalSpace have contributed numerous publications to a variety of scientific and technical journals [32]. In addition to the work with USRA/RIACS and NASA described in Part 2 above, we have collaborated with numerous universities and companies.

5.1 NASA/RIACS Collaboration

The Brahms team at USRA/RIACS, and the Agent iSolutions group will be involved in a key supporting role in this Phase I deliverable as will expert advisors from a number of NASA centers and collaborators.

5.2 External Cooperation

We will be cooperating with Dr. Don Brutzman and his group at the Naval Postgraduate School/MOVES Institute on the Extensible Modeling and Simulation Framework (XMSF), an XML-based cross platform framework for simulation. Benefits to this cooperation will be the possible use of an XMSF subset for the SOAP-based XML dialogue layer which will be implemented within BrahmsVE and drive the PBA. This Phase I SBIR work will in turn enable the XMSF working group to have an active intelligent agent case study in which to test XMSF concepts. XMSF is a broadly based standards effort that will bring interest and compatibility with simulation efforts at the DOD and at other government agencies and contractors which will strengthen the BrahmsVE offering and make possible broader SBIR Phase II development and Phase III commercialization.

5.3 Bibliography of Directly Related Work

[1] Associated Press News Report dated 08/16/2002, on the web at:

[2] Michael Alan Freed. “APEX, Simulating Human Performance in Complex, Dynamic Environments”, A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate School in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Field of Computer Science, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, June 1998

[3] Michael A. Freed, Roger W. Remington (2000) Making Human-Machine System Simulation a Practical Engineering Tool: An Apex Overview. In Proceedings of the 2000 International Conference on Cognitive Modeling, Groningen, Holland;

[4] Clancey, W. J., Sachs, P., Sierhuis, M., and van Hoof, R.1998. Brahms: Simulating Practice for Work Systems Design. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 49, 831-865.

[5] Sierhuis, M. 2001. Modeling and Simulating Work Practice; Brahms: A multiagent modeling and simulationlanguage for work system analysis and design. Ph.D. thesis, Social Science and Informatics (SWI), University of Amsterdam, SIKS Dissertation Series No. 2001-10, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, ISBN 90-6464-849-2.

[6] Sierhuis, M.; Bradshaw, J.M.; Acquisti, A.; Hoof, R.v.; Jeffers, R.; and Uszok, A. Human-Agent Teamwork and Adjustable Autonomy in Practice, in Proceedings of The 7th International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence,Robotics and Automation in Space (i-SAIRAS), Nara, Japan, 2003.

[7] M. Sierhuis and W. J. Clancey, Modeling and Simulating Work Practice: A human-centered method for work systems design, IEEE Intelligent Systems, vol. Volume 17(5), 2002.

[8] M. Sierhuis, A. Acquisti, and W. J. Clancey, Multiagent Plan Execution and Work Practice: Modeling plans and practices onboard the ISS, presented at 3rd International NASA Workshop on Planning and Scheduling for Space, Houston, TX, 2002.

[9] A. Acquisti, M. Sierhuis, W. J. Clancey, J. M. Bradshaw, Agent Based Modeling of Collaboration and Work Practices Onboard the International Space Station. Proceedings of the 11th Conference on Computer-Generated Forces and Behavior Representation, Orlando, FL, May 2002.

[10] Loftin, R.B., and Kenney, P.J., "Training the Hubble Space Telescope Flight Team," IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, vol. 15, no. 5, pp. 31-37, Sep, 1995.

[11] Engelberg, Mark[Ed] (September 11, 1994). Hubble Space Telescope Repair Training System [WWW document]. URL

[12] Cater, J. P., and Huffman, S. D. Use of Remote Access Virtual Environment Network (RAVEN) for Coordinated IVA-EVA Astronaut Training and Evaluation. _Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments_ vol. 4, no. 2 (Spring 1995), p. 103-109. (Training for Hubble Space Telescope repair.)

[13] Mars Pathfinder JPL site:

[14] Intelligent Virtual Station on the Web at:

[15] R. Papasin, B.J. Betts, R. Del Mundo, M. Guerrero, R.W. Mah, D.M. McIntosh, and E. Wilson, "Intelligent Virtual Station," Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space (i-SAIRAS 2003), Nara, Japan, May 2003.

[16] J. M. Bradshaw, M. Sierhuis, Y. Gawdiak, R. Jeffers, N. Suri, M. Greaves. (2001). Adjustable Autonomy and Teamwork for the Personal Satellite Assistant, in The IJCAI-01 Workshop on Autonomy, Delegation, and Control: Interacting with Autonomous Agents, Seattle, Washington, USA August 6, 2001. URL:

[17] Personal Satellite Assistant (PSA) Test Fixture (Greg Dorais, Yuri Gawdiak, Daniel Andrews, Brian Koss, Mike McIntyre) described on the web at:

[18] PSA Web site:

[19] Robonaut Web site:

[20] Rochlis, J, Clark, J.P. and Goza, M., "Space Station Telerobotics: Designing a Human-Robot Interface", AIAA Confeence on Space Station Utilization, Kennedy Space Center, October 2001.

[21] Transom Jack is described on the Web at:

[22] Jeff Rickel and W. Lewis Johnson. Task-oriented collaboration with embodied agents in virtual worlds. In J. Cassell, J. Sullivan, and S. Prevost, editors, Embodied Conversational Agents. MIT Press, Boston, 2000.

[23] MOVES Institute on the Web at:

[24] Blais, C., Brutzman, D., Horner, D., and Nicklaus, S., "Web-Based 3D Technology for Scenario Authoring and Visualization: The Savage Project", Proceedings of the 2001 Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), Orlando, Florida, 2001.

[25] B. Damer, M. Sierhuis, R. van Hoof, B. Campbell, D. Rasmussen, M. Neilson, C. Kaskiris, S. Gold, G. Brandt (2001). Brahms VE: A Collaborative Virtual Environment for Mission Operations, Planning and Scheduling, Final Report for STTR Contract #NAS2-01019, October 8, 2001. URL:

[26] BrahmsVE/FMARS Project Home Page on the web at:

[27] Boris Brodsky et al, “TM00-0025 BRAHMS OWorld Event Specification Version 1.0 Draft”,  August 14, 2002,NASA Ames Research Center.

[29] MER and Mars surface modeling projects on the Web at:

[30] BrahmsVE/ISS-PSA SBIR Phase I Project and reports Web Page:

[31] Brahms is described on the web at and in several papers at:

[32] DigitalSpace publications are available on the Web at:

Part 6: Key Personnel and Bibliography of Directly Related Work

6.1   Management and technical staff members

The following brief resumes introduce management/technical staff members for the proposed project.  DigitalSpace certifies that Bruce Damer, the Principal Investigator, has his primary employment at DigitalSpace at the time of award and during the conduct of the project.

Name:                           Bruce Damer (PI)

Years of Experience:     23

Position:                        CEO

Education:                     Bachelor of Science in Computer Science (University of Victoria, Canada, 1984); MSEE (University of Southern California, 1986)

Assignment:                  Mr. Damer will be the Principal Investigator for the SBIR Phase I effort.  He will coordinate all interaction between DigitalSpace and its collaborators and NASA and other participants, be responsible for all staffing, technical design, reporting and documentation.   Mr. Damer will devote a minimum of 100 hours per month of his time to this project.

Experience:                   Mr. Damer is the world's recognized expert on avatars and shared online graphical virtual spaces having created much of the early literature, conferences and awareness of the medium. Mr. Damer is a visiting scholar at the University of Washington Human Interface Technology Lab and a member of the staff at the San Francisco State Multimedia Studies Program. See for his recent writings.

Name:                           Stuart Gold (PM)

Years of Experience:     29

Position:                        Chief Architect (communities platform)          

Education:                     Royal Institute of British Architects

Assignment:                  Stuart Gold will serve as a Program Manager for the project and structure the technology components and architecture for the BrahmsVE platform as well as coordinating the 3D modeling teams and provide any database and real-time community tools infrastructural support on the project and the XML based interfaces with Brahms.

Experience:                   Mr. Gold is a pioneer of online systems, starting with his work on transaction processing for Prestel in the 1970s and concluding most recently with his leadership in the design and delivery of online virtual worlds including: TheU Virtual University Architecture Competition, International Health Insurance Virtual Headquarters, and Avatars98-2001 online events. Mr. Gold also is the chief architect of the DigitalSpace communities platform, implementing XML and JS based community tools for use by all DigitalSpace projects. See for his recent writings.

Name:                           Bruce Campbell (Lead SE)

Position:                        Programmer/Architect, Oworld/Atmosphere

Experience:                   6 years of experience at the University of Washington Human Interface Technologies Laboratory and the Department of Oceanography.

Assignment:                  JavaScript programming, interface with Brahms and 3D content, testing, open source strategy, university and distance learning partnerships.

Name:                           Galen Brandt (Marketing – Phases I and II)

Position:                        New business development, DigitalSpace

Experience:                   26 years including creating market strategies for Dun and Bradstreet, SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology, DoToLearn and others.

Assignment:                  Market development for Phase I and II.

Name:                           Dave Rasmussen (TE)

Position:                       Member of the 3D Design Studio, DigitalSpace

Experience:                  9 years experience in virtual world design, skills: 3DS Max, Java, Active Worlds, Adobe Atmosphere, PHP/MySQL database development

Assignment:                 Directing team performing 3D modeling and animation, testing

Name:                           Merryn Neilson (Lead CD)

Position:                       Member of the 3D Design Studio, DigitalSpace

Experience:                  9 years experience in virtual world design, skills: 3DS Max, Java, Active Worlds, Adobe Atmosphere

Assignment:                  Web design on project, 3D worlds, avatar design, testing

Name:                           Peter Newman (SE)

Position:                       Developer in C++, JS, PHP, HTML, 3D Design Studio, DigitalSpace

Assignment:                  Programmer of OWorld engine extensions.

Name:                           Ryan Norkus (CD)

Position:                       Graphic artist, 3d modeler and animator, 3D Design Studio,DigitalSpace

Assignment:                  Focusing on the automation of animated sequences

6.2 NASA and Non-NASA Advisors to the project (beyond Brahms team)

The following individuals have agreed to provide technical and scientific advisement to this project.

·         Dr. Charles Neveu, ARC/QSS, PSA Team – advising on Phase I PSA/ISS application (implemented)

·         Mike Sims, ARC – advising on rover and surface mission design, assisted with JPL/MER demonstration project

·         Dr. Geoff Briggs, Scientific Director, Center for Mars Exploration, ARC – advising on terrain modeling, surface mission design, commissioned whole-planet Mars terrain demonstration project.

·         Dr. Tom Furness III, HIT Lab University of Washington – technology transfer advisor

·         Dr. Don Brutzman, Naval Postgraduate School, MOVES institute

·         Captain Richard O’Neill, Directory, Highlands Group

·         Dr. Steve Ellis, ARC

·         Dr. Robert Mah, Smart Systems Research Lab, ARC

Part 7: Relationship with Phase II or other Future R/R&D

DigitalSpace has made a multi-year commitment to the development of the vision we share with the NASA and RIACS team members who have made this effort possible. Briefly stated, our joint mission is to create the world’s most comprehensive, graphically realistic, collaborative work practice, mission planning and operations development environment. Successful completion of this proposed SBIR Phase I will set the stage for full multi-agent human-centric production packaging of BrahmsVE. We expect to engage multiple NASA and outside customers for BrahmsVE within a Phase II SBIR to qualify the platform for full Phase III commercialization. At the start of Phase III, DigitalSpace plans to either finance its initial operation with customer revenues or venture capital, or if no venture capital is obtained, the principals are committed to self-finance the venture during Phase III.

Part 8: Company Information and Facilities

DigitalSpace Corporation was incorporated in the state of California on August 24, 1995.  DigitalSpace is a company organized to innovate and commercialize in the multi-user virtual worlds and virtual communities market. The company’s business is based on the following concepts:

That the Internet and especially 3D virtual worlds, voice and text environments, can be effective meeting places and enable communication, learning and team based projects. DigitalSpace uses these spaces daily in a proof of concept that a company can base its entire operations on them;

As the need for teleworking, distance learning, virtual communities of interest and Visualization grows, so will grow the capabilities of ordinary consumer personal computers to deliver real-time 3D multi-user experiences. It is the convergence between these needs and the capabilities of consumer computing hardware that will create a large industry producing and hosting virtual worlds and communities in the future.

On these two premises, DigitalSpace has provided solutions for dozens of clients to produce both demonstration and fully functional virtual spaces since 1995. See our web site at for a portfolio of projects and clients. We will feature a number of them here for their relevance to this SBIR proposal:

8.2 Equipment used

All DigitalSpace member-owners have at least one personal computer connected on the Internet (most have IBM PCs, Pentium class, while others have Macintoshes or both in their local offices as well as other equipment).   

Part 9: Subcontracts and Consultants

DigitalSpace Corporation will use outside consultants and employees on this project.

Part 10: Commercial Applications Potential

There are several classes of customer for a BrahmsVE environment having a local, autonomous agent capability.

10.1 Potential NASA Applications

Numerous projects within NASA ranging from the PSA and IVS at Ames to the Robonaut at JSC and other efforts at several NASA centers could benefit from the addition of a multi-agent, human-centric visual simulation platform. Other than these identified applications, there are other possible customers within NASA.

Modeling and simulation for Mars Science Laboratory and Titan missons

Geoff Briggs and Michael Sims of Ames informs us that future Mars (Mars Science Laboratory ’09) and Titan missions will include the use of drills, rotorcraft and airplanes. While these are strictly robotic missions there will be “humans in the loop” in the form of significant science backrooms and mission control.

Sim-station support

Julian Gomez of RIACS, who is working on early renditions of the Sim-Station project for RIACS at Ames informs us that there will be need for 3D realistic representations of systems and people within the ISS to complement the schematic-style representation of station subsystems. Julian has been equipped with a running version of BrahmsVE.

Greater operator effectiveness through improved telepresence interfaces

Projects at ARC and JSC are focusing on the use of tactile feedback interface for collision awareness between workspace and avatar objects, and robot structure, force feedback devices for awareness of manipulator and payload inertia, gripping force and the use of stereoscopic display systems and spatial tracking of head, arms, etc are all considered key to more effective teleoperation. Based on its flexibility using open Web standards, we expect that BrahmsVE will have a role to play in teleoperation and that we will be able to build interfaces to tactile and force feedback systems, bringing this key interface modality into BrahmsVE.

ARC: Virtual Digital Human
Based on the new Mission Control Center System (MCCS) Architecture framework, integrated support for virtual-digital-human-in-the-loop and tele-operational interfaces is being promoted for flight and ground operations development, analyses, training, and support. The main result desired is an interactive system that enhances operator and IVA/EVA task efficiency via the tele-operational technologies and distributed collaborative virtual environments. The implementation of the Virtual Digital Human (VDH) seeks to create anatomical, biomechanical and anthropometric functionality to fully simulate the somatic components and systems of the human body. BrahmsVE utilizing the Adobe Atmosphere Viewpoint technology for procedural (skeletal) skinned human body forms within shared virtual environments may be able to meet this challenge.

NASA educational outreach and Space Camp
Immersive virtual worlds, virtual digital human (VDH), and 3D simulation modeling, have become a significant vehicle for NASA's effort to generate and communicate knowledge/understanding to K-12 and college/university students on topics such as the International Space Station and Space Shuttle/Space Transport System (STS) operations, Robotics, Intravehicular/Extravehicular activities, Mission Control Center conduct, interplanetary space flight, and microgravity simulation. BrahmsVE can go a long way to helping NASA enable this kind of outreach and could even become a fixture at NASA Space Camp at several centers.

10.2 Potential non-NASA government, educational and commercial applications

DOD and DOE – energy security design application

In January 2003 BrahmsVE was presented at a special workshop at the Arlington Institute held for the Office of Secretary of Defense. A prototype virtual windfarm [27] was developed utilizing Adobe Atmosphere, OWorld and the BrahmsVE engine. The Havok physics engine allowed us to show windfarm KW/Hour production scales for different configurations of turbines. Coupling this with a geographical information system provided by GeoFusion Inc. allowed us to show the DOD staffers and other energy experts how sites for windfarm power could be selected and then the production output modeled. It is planned to present this work again at a Highlands Forum program for the DOD at the end of 2003. It is felt that a DOE presentation will follow.

Defense design, training and operations applications

The military will be using semi and fully autonomous agents working closely to support troops and command in surveillance and combat missions throughout the 21st Century. Therefore we expect a great deal of interest surrounding a product in this space. We are already in contact with the Naval Postgraduate School MOVES Institute about cooperation on and adopting a new XML based standard in simulation communications.

K-12 and College, Education and Museums

The current set of NASA BrahmsVE applications could be repurposed into educational course modules for schools. In discussions with William and Carol Kerney of San Diego K-12 Schools, and the Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, we have determined that there is a need and a market for student spaces in which they can construct space stations or colonies on the Moon or Mars and design all of the subsystems and human/agent activities. Of course, agent-based virtual environments can also be of great value to museums and science learning centers such as the Exploratorium in San Francisco, where we have been in contact with Technical Director Larry Shaw, who is interested in hosting an event for the MER landing in January 2004 and using our BrahmsVE MER modeling done for JPL.

Robot games – educational and entertainment applications

Robot “wars” are one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the popular media and robot game competition are some of the finest learning events for K-12 and college engineering students and faculty. Ames sponsors such events with CMU students and high schools. We have communicated with the organizers of the Ames events and demonstrated them BrahmsVE. It is planned to partner with them and the local chapter of the Robotics Society of America to develop a kids’ robot design lab and competition space within the virtual spaces made possible by BrahmsVE. Massive multi-player online games are experiencing a large amount of investment and commercial interest. BrahmsVE is a competent platform for the creation of a successful multiplayer online game both as a learning tool and as a pay-per-play tournament environment.  We plan to seek support for a commercial, online robot games application. We have secured the trademark “digibots” for this project and are creating a business plan.

Industrial design, training and operations applications

From factory floor automation to security systems, complex environments where humans work in tandem with mobile agents or other autonomous machine systems all need a comprehensive model-based environment with high fidelity 3D re-creation during both design, training and operations phases. Industrial training is a multi-billion dollar per year industry and BrahmsVE is uniquely suited to enter this market, running on industry standard platforms.

Consumer market research for personal wireless assistants

The emerging era of wireless, wearable personal assistants is picking up momentum with ever more sophisticated cell phones and other handheld devices. In a real sense, each of these devices represents the pairing of humans with machines, all which the BrahmsVE human/agent augmentation design environment can model for product design purposes. DigitalSpace plans to make use of its business plan developed as part of Phase I to obtain private venture support for a number of opportunities, including the robot games application. Such a venture will be approached in tandem with the Brahms/Agent iSolutions group. In addition, DigitalSpace’s member-owners are committed to self-financing if no venture capital is obtained.

Part 11: Similar Proposals and Awards

DigitalSpace Corporation has received past support enabling the creation of the fundamental building blocks for the current proposed work from a Phase I STTR awarded in 2000 (Contract #NAS2-01019), through an SBIR Phase I awarded in 2002 (Contract #NAS2-03134) and through RIACS. DigitalSpace is submitting no other proposals similar to this 2003 SBIR Phase I.