This research was supported in part by NSF Young Investigator award MIP-9257982 with matching support from High-Level Design Systems. The UCLA Commotion Laboratory is supported by NSF CDA-9303148 and matching funds from the UCLA School of Engineering and Applied Science.

One analogy would be the contrast between application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) such as controllers or DSP chips, and general-purpose microprocessors. While we view taskable machines as task-specific, other researchers such as Horswill [20] consider the notion of environment-specific robots.

As examples: (1) Power and bandwidth limitations to telemetry may require intelligent image analysis before downlink from the sensing hardware. (2) Time delays and uncertainty in uplink of operator controls (e.g., to a deep-space probe via radio, or to a mobile robot via an unreliable link in the Internet) may require intelligent partitioning of control between the taskable machine and its remote operator. Cf. [1] for an overview of intelligent scheduling.

See [8], which describes a safety net for mobile robots based on potential fields, and uses the term ``teleautonomy''. Other useful references are contained in the substantial literatures on teleoperation and telerobotics.

Note that: (1) A single robot translates to a single point of system failure. (2) Taskable machines by their nature do not require the riskier leading-edge technology needed by universal robots. (3) A system of multiple robots can provide graceful degradation under failures.

Sensing, actuation, program and video traces which comprise feedback to the remote experimenter will at the same time provide back-annotation of the experimental protocol.

Public policy considerations must also be addressed, e..g., how should access to a space telescope be prioritized between a local researcher and a remote researcher, between a school assembly and a Ph.D. student's experiment, etc.?

We are not as interested in a ``remote undergraduate biology or chemistry laboratory'' (cf. [28]). Requirements such as manipulation, machine vision, safe operation in human environments, etc., dominate such a concept; these are not so dominant in the distributed sensing, monitoring, and exploration tasks that we envision for colonies of mobile taskable machines.

For example, [21] showed that by using a Web interface, it is possible to make robotics applications widely accessible by appropriately abstracting the interface. On the other hand, [18] showed that low-level real-time control can also be achieved over the Internet.

For users, resources include actuation, sensing, computation and communication capabilities of the taskable hardware, which form the basis for the remote experiment. For the taskable hardware, resources include space, communications media, etc. and engender many resource-conflict issues.

By ``security'', we mean ``protection'', i.e., ``a mechanism for controlling the access of programs, processes or users to the resource defined by a [computer] system'' [39].

Other Web applications include: (1) Net-frog [28] uses QuickTime movies to demonstrate dissections in the frog anatomy. Users use a mouse to practice dissection on still images of frog; the program monitors and notifies the users if, e.g., they try to cut at the wrong place. (2) The Monterey BayNet project [12] establishes the backbone for multiple educational initiatives and research projects. ATM, Frame Relay, and ISDN networks are interconnected, with the Multicast Backbone [40] and World-Wide Web providing tools for complete connectivity to a wide variety of existing information sources. Ongoing projects include the live exploration of Monterey Canyon using a deep-sea remotely-operated vehicle, and a ``virtual telescope'' interface to astronomical data at The Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy (MIRA). (3) The NERO project [26] is an ongoing multiple-institution effort in Oregon to create a virtual classroom, i.e., collaborative research and teaching among the member institutions and with industrial sites. ATM provides the basic network technology. Collaborative tools, distance learning and real-time control applications such as robotics and flight simulators are some of the research areas.

I.e., submitting a job and receiving an image result -- sometimes days later.

Because network delays are relatively long and unpredictable, the remote software modules are first downloaded automatically by Onika, then the whole program executes on the machine where all modules reside.

The Onika interface is built on top of X-windows; it is not as simple to achieve an iconic interface and real-time video using existing Web facilities.

Various research works toward ``Virtual Environments'' and "Virtual Reality" have already produced a number of software packages, architectures, and operating systems. Two examples are as follows: (i) The VEOS (Virtual Environment Operating Shell) project [10], which is a management facility for generation of, interaction with and maintenance of virtual environments. An early demonstration in a blocks world allowed four participants to independently navigate and manipulate movable objects in a shared virtual space. (ii) The work of [30] allows informal collaboration by embedding an information retrieval tool (Gopher) to a ``text-based virtual reality'' environment; this is an example of merging computer-mediated conferencing and online information retrieval.

Currently widely used Web facilities are HTTP 1.0 [4], HTML 2.0 [7], CGI 1.1 [22], and the most widely used browser is Netscape (Version 1.1 as of mid-April 1995). However, the current Web facilities do not effectively support: (i) real-time animation (although ``poorman's animation'' is achievable via, e.g., Netscape 1.1's ``server push'' and ``client pull''), and (ii) file upload capability. We note that adding file upload function into HTML fill-out forms has been proposed [33,36], and has been implemented experimentally by some browsers such as Hot Java.

Yu Uny Cao
Fri May 12 16:04:55 PDT 1995