Monday, June 27, 2005

Space Station gets 2001 Upgrade (At Last)

Those who saw and loved the Stanley Kubrick film "2001: A Space Odyssey" will be pleased to know that the Space Station has finally upgraded 'in part' to reach the year 2001. Although the voice activated computer 'Clarissa' does not have HAL's artificial intelligence it is believed that this system will be much nicer. From what I gather the system sounds even nicer than the voices in my head.
~~~~~~~~~ Quotes from New Scientist magazine ~~~~~~~~~~~
Called Clarissa, the program will initially talk astronauts on the International Space Station through tests of onboard water supplies. But its developers hope it will eventually be used for all computer-related work on the station.
Clarissa was designed with input from astronauts. They said it was difficult to perform the 12,000 procedures necessary to maintain the ISS and conduct scientific experiments while simultaneously reading through lengthy instruction manuals.
Clarissa's software runs on a laptop and astronauts interact with it using a headset, which helps screen out noise from the station. The program "listens" to everything astronauts say and analyses what to do in response using a "command grammar" of 75 commands based on a vocabulary of 260 words.
It accurately interprets those commands about 94% of the time, but if it makes a mistake, astronauts can correct it with commands like, "no, I meant...". But because Clarissa listens to everything, early versions of the program misinterpreted whether an astronaut was giving it a command or having an unrelated conversation about 10% of the time.
Personally I thought the movie stunk. Talk about boring. It did work well as a sleeping aid but I'd rather have insomnia... Hopefully Clarrissa will not put the astronauts to sleep.

(Link in story to NASA video)