IBM today
announced a research collaboration that will help NASA scientists
analyze tele-robotic data during the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover (MER)

Inspired by a project called “BlueBoard” created at IBM’s Almaden
Research Center in San Jose, Calif., NASA is developing “MERBoards” to
allow mission scientists and engineers to display, capture, annotate
and share information via large interactive displays. The software
that facilitates this collaboration operates on a large standalone
plasma display with a resistive touch screen and also runs in a user’s
personal computing environment. The board includes a PC with a web
browser and custom workspace application for data and file sharing.

“Given the enormous amount of training and specialization already
required for the participants in the rover missions, we needed an
interactive collaboration tool that the rover teams could easily use
after only 10 minutes of training,” said Jay Trimble, a scientist at
the NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “This
work at IBM Research on collaboration via interactive displays
provided us with the design inspiration that led to our proposal for
the MERboard as a mission enhancement.”

Incorporating IBM’s design and extending it for the domain of Mars
Surface Operations, the MERBoards will provide the capability to view
data, share it on multiple displays in different locations, sketch and
make annotations, and distribute that data to individual team members
and groups. It will also enable scientists and engineers to support
the team’s work-practice of developing scientific hypotheses and
related rover activity and observation requests.

Developed at Ames for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in
Pasadena, Calif., the MERBoard functionality was based on observations
of JPL’s mission operations team conducting rover field tests. JPL
manages the Mars Exploration Rover mission. The MERBoards will enhance
mission operations processes by providing a new tool to support the
collaborative process — one that works with JPL’s mission software

“The goal of our BlueBoard project is to increase productivity by
integrating simple and easy-to-grasp functions that support fast
encounters and spontaneous meetings,” said Daniel Russell, senior
manager of the User Sciences and Experience Research group at IBM’s
Almaden Research Center. “This work with NASA Ames is supplementing
our own user research and providing us with valuable insight into
user-centered design and the BlueBoard project.”

The collaboration was announced today at IBM’s sixth annual Make
IT Easy conference, which is being held June 3-6 at IBM’s Almaden
Research Center. The conference includes workshops, tutorials,
presentations, papers and exhibits on simplicity and ease of use in

For more information about the conference, please visit:

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