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Exploring space and man’s going into space is unthinkable without an artificial intelligence partnership, as such an endeavour is an extremely demanding job and an expensive project.
Organized by the Adriatic Space Association and co-organized by the Ruđer Bošković Institute, University of Zadar, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb and the University of Algebra, at the Ruđer Bošković Institute, and under the auspices of the Croatian Academy of Engineering, held the conference Artificial Intelligence follows the trends in the development of artificial intelligence in space, where top experts from Croatia and Europe spoke. Also, the sponsors of the conference were the Zagreb Tourist Board, the University of Zadar and Visage Technologies.
The Adriatic aerospace association is an association of individuals from top experts to students, companies, and scientific institutions, directly or indirectly linked to space science and technology. The activities of the A3 Association extend in several directions, and one of the main ones is international cooperation, especially regional. This conference was just aimed at this type of cooperation, to bring together experts, companies and scientific institutions on a topic related to space technology and space development.
Conferences are held every year, and for the past two years the same has not been feasible due to restrictions on holding gatherings caused by the current pandemic. The last one was held in 2019. The purpose of the conference is to see in which parts of advanced space technology can agree on cooperation in this region, especially in Croatia.
This year’s theme of the conference was Artificial Intelligence in Space, a topic of priority for the development of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Space Commission. Exploring space and man’s going into space is unthinkable without an artificial intelligence partnership, as such an endeavour is an extremely demanding job and an expensive project. Probes that carry robots with the application of artificial intelligence, can largely perform tasks that should be performed by man, but the process is much simpler and more efficient. When one day the launch of humans into space becomes a standard project, artificial intelligence, either in the form of robots or in the form of androids, will be a partner for humans to stay and explore space.
The conference was attended by top experts working on the development of space technology and those who are indirectly involved in such a development.
The first speaker (presentation) was Dr. sc. Riccardo Duca from the European Space Agency, responsible for the technological development of ESA, who spoke about the projects being carried out within the framework of artificial intelligence in ESA. There are approximately 200 current projects related to artificial intelligence, so half of these projects relate to the analysis of data obtained from space probes, space objects, or satellites that send data from space to Earth. This is a huge amount of data that would be difficult to analyze without the existence of artificial intelligence, and thus extract the important ones.
The second half of the project is related to the development of artificial intelligence, which is placed on space probes, which then control space probes, or objects that are sent to space bodies in space, such as the Moon and Mars, and even asteroids. A typical example is the navigation system of the BepiColombo probe – a probe that needs to leave Earth and orbit the planet Mercury. Extremely demanding project, which would be difficult to achieve without artificial intelligence.
The second lecturer was prof.dr.sc. Bojan Jerbić from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture, University of Zagreb, who is the holder of the robotic intelligence project and the head of the Centre for Advanced Artificial Intelligence – CRTA. He spoke about the neuronavigation project and the possibilities of robots to independently perform operations on the brain and other parts of the human body. Although the project is medically oriented, it is very important for the future development of the space presence in space. Such a robot can largely replace the need for traditional medical participation in surgeries. On Mars, a single robot could very well be used for future operations, without the need for medical staff.
Next, the third presentation (presentation) was given by dr.sc. Alexander Radovan from the University of Algebra, who had a presentation on the development of artificial intelligence on the Mars rover and the development of artificial intelligence for probes on Mars. In the presentation, the lecturer Radovan gave a historical overview of the development and continued the lecture in the direction of the latest development of the rover; of its possibilities, how it makes decisions, in which direction to explore the surface of Mars and how to avoid awkward situations.
The fourth presentation (presentation) was given by mr. sc. Luka Orsag on behalf of Visage Technologies, which is also a member of the Adriatic aerospace association. He spoke about the visual communication of man and robot based on visual collaboration. By visually exchanging information between a human and a robot, it is possible to interpret information from the context of such communication, from the expression of a human face.
The fifth lecture (presentation) was given by prof.dr.sc. Philipp Berglez, from the Faculty of Geology, Technical University of Graz, who spoke about navigation based on data obtained from satellites. Today’s navigation uses GPS, but for special needs it is required to be highly accurate. In other words, it is necessary to analyse an extremely large amount of data that ordinary GPS, which is used in everyday use, cannot process. For such a large amount of data, precise navigation on the ground requires artificial intelligence. In the future, if self-driving cars are to be planned, they will need just such a high-precision navigation and they will have artificial intelligence with them to interpret this data.
Jorge Ocón, Head of the Department of Autonomy in the Department of Space Robotics at GMV, then spoke as the sixth speaker. The topic of the presentation was the application of artificial intelligence for autonomous robots with examples used on earth. They are planned to be used to explore mines, inaccessible areas, pollution, radioactivity, etc., which can very easily be used to explore “enemy areas” such as the Moon or Mars.
Prof.dr.sc. Tomislav Stipančić from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture, University of Zagreb, as the seventh exhibitor, spoke about the visual interaction of man and the image of a robot that perceives human facial expressions and interprets various emotions such as laughter, anger, joy, sadness, dissatisfaction, etc., showing examples interactive visual communication with the robot. Based on such an expression, the robot, i.e., the embedded software of artificial intelligence, can conclude the state of emotions of its partner.
This is extremely important, because one day in space, humans will surely be partnering with an android and a human-like robot that will be able to read conclusions about emotional state and current mood based on the expression of a human face.
Daniela Jović, as a member of A3, but also an employee of the Slovak company Spacemanic, as the eighth lecturer (presentation), gave a historical overview of the development of space technology and space science in Slovakia from the early 60-70 years, the results achieved and especially the current success of Spacemanic development of satellite technology. She also announced the A3 project, which together with the company Spacemanic is building the first Croatian satellite that should be launched in 2023. The satellite is called CroCube and measures 10 x 10 x 10 cm.
Filip Novoselnik from Protostar Labs spoke as the ninth speaker on the development and programming of artificial intelligence for industrial robots, which can be easily used in space conditions, such as work on space stations or work on space bodies such as Mars and the Moon.
At the end of the presentations (presentation), Ph.D. Jörgen Ahlberg, owner of Visage Technologies from Sweden, spoke about a very important topic, and that is how start-ups, ie business start-ups, can succeed in the market world of competition. It was extremely interesting to see that failure to set up and run such small businesses does not have to be an obstacle to not starting and developing new ideas to start such ones, ultimately with the success of companies like Visage Technologies, where they manage to find projects that companies process. and have success in the world rankings.
The conference concluded with a panel discussion on the role of SMEs in the development and organization of artificial intelligence for space exploration. The discussion was extremely interesting, and the aspects of how small companies would have an advantage in the development of basic ideas of artificial intelligence in contrast to large companies were considered. Small companies have the flexibility that ideas can be launched immediately, while large companies must go through administrative steps in order for such a project to be launched.
As part of the conference, “Night under the Stars” was organized, also at the Ruđer Bošković Institute, which was in the evening, and began with a lecture by Ante Radonić on the James Webb telescope. The lecture attracted many people, especially younger ones, and Ante Radonić presented the historical development of space telescopes in space. The final project resulted in the James Webb Telescope, which surpassed all previous telescopes in technology, but which still provides extremely important data. With its precision, James Webb replaces special areas of the electromagnetic spectrum, which complements previous telescopes.
In the evening, three telescopes of the Zagreb Observatory, the astronomical society “Beskraj” and one telescope of amateur astronomers were set up on the meadow of the Ruđer Bošković Institute, where the citizens of the City of Zagreb could watch the night starry sky. Fortunately, the sky was extremely clear so that very distant objects could be seen nicely.
The event attracted many citizens, but what makes us happy is the presence of many children and young people who had the opportunity not only to see the night sky, but also to find out what these facilities represent. It is people from astronomical societies who are top experts in astronomy and have been able to transfer a large amount of information to the public.
The second day of the conference was organized in the form of a visit to the Center for Advanced Robotic Technology – CRTA, at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture, University of Zagreb, with prof.dr.sc. Bojan Jerbić. On the spot you can see what all kinds of robotic technology exist and are developing in this Centre, which left a great impression on the conference participants.