Fourth Planet's History

This is an Archival Site from 1996

Fourth Planet Inc. is a private company founded in March 1996 and headquartered in Santa Clara, California. Our founders were formerly the core development team in the highly successful Intelligent Mechanisms Group at the NASA Ames Research Center. Fourth Planet is applying cutting edge technology to commercial applications in the field of dynamic data visualization.

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The company founders are best known for the development of NASA visualization software used to rapidly develop virtual reality-based operator interfaces. Their past experience lies in the field of remotely-operated vehicles, where they worked on representing highly dynamic and complex real-time information from remote areas in a natural and intuitive form. The Fourth Planet team specialized in testing their new technology in the harshest terrestrial conditions available. Over a five year period from 1991 through 1995, the IM Lab performed ten robotic field missions designed to simulate the complete mission operation of a robotic exploration vehicle on another planet controlled from the Earth. The core sofware technology used for these missions was the Virtual Environment Vechicle Interface (VEVI).

Some of our better known missions include:

NASA Antarctic Telepresence Remotely Operated Vehicle (TROV) expedition (McMurdo Sound, Antarctica 1993). This mission pioneered the use of virtual reality technology for the tele-operations of underwater vehicles at a great distance. In this mission, the TROV (located under the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica) was sucessfully controlled through VEVI from NASA Ames in California & the National Air & Space Museum in Washington D.C.
Dante II Volcano mission (Mt. Spurr crater, Alaska 1994). In this mission, the VEVI software (developed by the Fourth Planet founders) assisted in the real-time visualization of the interior of an active volcano. This mission demonstrated the feasibility and utility of constructing 3D terrains in real-time for both robot operations and science data collection.
Marsokhod Planetary Rover mission of Kilauea Volcano (Kilauea Hawaii 1994). In this mission, the capabilities of VEVI as both an vehicle control & science data visualization tool were proven. Through VEVI, the Marsokhod was driven on Kilauea from Mountain View ,CA. One of the most noteworthy accomplishments of this mission was the integration of live video streams into the 3D virtual world generated by VEVI.
Ranger Telerobotic Flight Experiment scheduled for launch into Earth-orbit in late 1997. This mission proved VEVI's ability in controlling systems at a distance with very high update rate requirements (100Hz). Through VEVI the complex robotic arms of VEVI where effectively represented and controlled.

Although the NASA work addressed particular problems in unmanned planetary exploration, the Fourth Planet team became increasingly aware of the potential commercial applications for this technology. Fourth Planet, Inc. was formed to satisfy that commercial need for powerful tools to easily interpret vast amounts of complex and dynamic information.

Copyright 1996 Fourth Planet Inc.
Planetary Images & Data courtesy NASA, JPL & USGS.
Last Updated: 15 Nov. 1996 .
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