NASA Software “Builds” Facilities in Virtual World

October 31, 2001

The Mars Map virtual reality software guided NASA scientists through the 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission by allowing mission scientists and operations personnel to command and control

remote robotic spacecraft within a virtual environment. The 3-D imaging software was developed at NASA Ames Research

Center, Moffett Field, Calif. San Jose-based Reality Capture Technologies, Inc. (RCT), which recently received a license for further development of the platform, has made this part of its integrated life-cycle information-management platform.

“RCT’s software platform enables fast-track design and construction at lower risk and reduced costs,” said Reality Capture Technologies CEO Dr. Ted Blackmon. “It is a highly advanced, computer-integrated management tool that reduces

rework and schedule and cost overruns on complex construction


One of RCT’s first software modules enables engineers to

complete construction sequences and test various aspects in virtual reality before building an actual structure. By fusing software systems used during the design stage with those used during construction, RCT provides virtual access

to a construction site and permits project personnel to manage, assess, control and respond to changes on complex construction projects more effectively.

“RCT’s products help our customers to deliver their products to market sooner and facilitates ongoing maintenance of a production plant, ” Blackmon said. “This translates directly into increased revenue potential and lower operating costs

for our customers and has a positive effect on a

corporation’s bottom-line profitability.”

An Ames science team originally developed Mars Map to create a photographic-quality rendering system. Mars Map allowed researchers to better understand the surface of Mars and perform more effective science by providing an accurate visual representation of the planetary terrain.

“The Mars Pathfinder mission was the first test of this new class of photo-realistic virtual reality systems,” said Dr. Michael Sims of Ames, who managed the Mars Map development team. “Mars Map made a big difference in our understanding of

Mars during Pathfinder, and made us realize that this technology could be an extremely powerful tool for the rendering of the world.”

“RCT uniquely addresses the link between various stages of a facility’s ‘life-cycle,’ leveraging information generated during the design stage through construction and subsequently into operations and maintenance,” said Blackmon. “By

leveraging advanced software originally developed at NASA for the space program, we are able to effectively ‘bridge the islands of automation’ that exist in the engineering/construction/operations industry today, and interconnect traditionally stand-alone software systems into an end-to-end

distributed computing platform.”

“This company is a resident of the Ames Technology Commercialization Center, a technology incubator located in San Jose,” said Phil Herlth of the Ames Commercial Technology

Office. “This successful transfer of the software demonstrates how NASA’s Commercial Technology Offices perform their mission of maximizing NASA’s research efforts. “

Michael Braukus

Headquarters, Washington

(Phone: 202/358-1979)

Victoria Kushnir

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

(Phone: 650/604-0176)