CASE - Cognitive Architecture for Space Agents

Grey Havoc

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Oct 9, 2009
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The artificial intelligence software that Bonasso and his colleagues have now designed, dubbed the "cognitive architecture for space agents," or CASE, is composed of three key layers. The first is a continuously running control layer that connects to and runs hardware such as robotic hands and eyes. Specifically, CASE controls a simulation of a planetary base.

The second layer carries out procedures underlying routine activities. These include connecting power to batteries, controlling oxygen-generation and carbon-dioxide-removal systems, and charging and sending rovers to retrieve samples of planetary rock.

The final layer consists of automatic planning software that decides how to achieve CASE's programmed goals for the day and the order in which to perform them. It can also automatically reschedule activities when problems arise, such as gas leaks, broken motors or planetary dust storms, Bonasso said.

All three layers are linked to an ontology server — a rigorous, exhaustive database that can reason about its data. For example, if someone moves a toolbox from the equipment locker to the crew quarters, the ontology server reasons that all of the tools in the box will change location as well, the researchers said.

The software can visually display information such as those regarding life support and robot status, but can also converse with people so they can ask questions, send commands and be warned about any impending problems. To prevent a situation like one where HAL betrayed its astronauts, CASE is designed to carry out plans only after sharing them with people and getting consent for action.

"Our colleagues and NASA counterparts are not concerned that our HAL might get out of control," Bonasso told "That's because it can't do anything it's not programmed to do."

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