Collaboration in Motion
By Jaumarro A. Cuffee, JSC I3P Outreach
Innovative thinking and collaboration have become key tenets of NASA culture. Both trends contribute to advances in technology and lower, or shared, costs. The spirits of both innovative thinking and collaboration are embodied in Kinect Collaborative Lab (Co-Lab) at Johnson Space Center (JSC).
The goal of Kinect Co-Lab is to encourage the use of natural motion technology in interface design, motion tracking and business solutions. In this pursuit, Kinect Co-Lab reaches out to partner with universities and industry. This exchange allows students to leverage NASA expertise to expand their own research. It also provides a two-way exchange between NASA disciplines and industry where NASA professionals from multiple centers receive technical details and insight into the direction of planned development. The industry participants receive input from NASA professionals to consider for future development.
Kinect Co-Lab was the result of innovative thinking and collaboration. Shelby Thompson, a Lockheed Martin Senior Human Factors Design Engineer, describes the birth of Kinect Co-Lab beginning with a JSC Engineering Directorate Innovation Charge Account (ICA) used by the Human Interface Branch (EV3) of the JSC Engineering Avionics Systems Division to develop Virtual Windows using Kinect. To evaluate Virtual Windows, EV3 reached out to the Habitability and Human Factors Branch (SF3). The Virtual Windows evaluation exposed Thompson to Kinect and he realized, “Wow, this is it. This is the device that is going to take us from a mouse and keyboard to that next level.” The unfolding web connecting resources and igniting ideas was eventually organized by former co-ops Elena Buhay and Brian Schwing in the formation of NASA Co-Labs.
Kinect Co-Lab is one of a few NASA Co-Labs currently active at JSC where open, dynamic exchanges of concepts can spark another line of investigation or a solution in an unrelated area. This exchange also includes sharing resources, which helps groups like Kinect Co-Lab continue to develop and demonstrate interface concepts based on natural motion technology.
For Kinect Co-Lab, natural motion technology is neither the beginning nor the end, but one more step toward building Natural User Interfaces (NUI). Allan Stillwell, JSC Information Resources Directorate project manager and new technology researcher, describes it as, “You’ve got speech. You’ve got gesture, and then there’s going to be the part where it’s not just your computer. It’s things that are not normally interactive becoming interactive.” He admits NUI is a long way off. But to get to NUI or make possible many of the endless possibilities, NASA must keep collaboration in motion.