The CMU Field Robotics Center (FRC) developed Dante II, a tethered walking robot, which explored the Mt. Spurr (Aleutian Range, Alaska) volcano in July 1994. High-temperature, fumarole gas samples are prized by volcanic science, yet their sampling poses significant challenge. In 1993, eight volcanologists were killed in two separate events while sampling and monitoring volcanoes. The use of robotic explorers, such as Dante II, opens a new era in field techniques by enabling scientists to remotely conduct research and exploration.
Using its tether cable anchored at the crater rim, Dante II is able to descend down sheer crater walls in a rappelling-like manner to gather and analyze high temperature gasses from the crater floor. In addition to contributing to volcanic science, a primary objective of the Dante II program is to demonstrate robotic exploration of extreme (i.e., harsh, barren, steep) terrains such as those found on planetary surfaces.
The *Intelligent Mechanisms Group (IMG)* has been developing advanced *telepresence and virtual environment based operator interfaces* since 1991. These advanced interfaces are important for terrestrial science and exploration applications, and are critical for planetary surface missions. During the fall of 1993, the IMG demonstrated the application of such interfaces via field testing of the *Telepresence Remotely Operated Vehicle(TROV)* under the sea ice near McMurdo Science Station, Antarctica.
The IMG is providing the Dante II project with virtual environment and visual simulation tools. These tools provide vehicle configuration and terrain visualization to operators and scientific observers. In addition, the IMG is providing its teleoperations expertise for implementing live stereo video on Dante II and for enabling the interaction of multiple observation sites in the continental United States during the July mission.