Pei Liew About Work LinkedIn Instagram


RSketch –

A data visualization tool to help scientists who drive the rover on Mars determine the safest and most efficient path for the robot to take.

Software design and prototype created during a ten week internship at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and nominated for the National Science Foundation Vizzies People's Choice Award.

Image from JPL

Image from JPL



Introduction –

JPL's latest rover, Curiosity, is on Mars conducting scientific experiments to understand the Martian climate and geology. Rover Planners must navigate Curiosity up and down steep slopes, around unforgiving rocks and wheel-sinking sand to target locations determined by science teams.

Problem –

Driving the multi-billion dollar robot from 150 million miles away isn't an easy task. Their current tools and processes are not intuitive, the RPs spend about 9 hours each day generating and simulating paths and do much of the analysis and decision making in their heads.


Solution –

A visualization tool to quickly sketch out a path, display data along the path, receive immediate feedback for faster analysis, and export the path to the existing tool suite.



By visually encoding variable data we can externalize the mental model of an RP. We used color to represent pitch, the uphill or downhill tilt that has an effect on the rover’s speed and whether it under or overshoots its mark. White bars along the path represent roll, the side to side tilt it will experience traveling over uneven terrain. Too much roll will cause the robot to tip over.


RSketch Prototype –

Easily sketch out a path by adding, moving, and deleting waypoints.


View data along the path on a bird’s eye view map and with a standard timeline histogram view for quicker analysis.


View detailed NavCam imagery for thorough terrain analysis, view uncertainty (rover's margin of error), and export the path to the rest of the system.


"The three of you did a fantastic job. You laid the foundation for a tool that I think will have a big impact on the way we operate rovers. Thanks for all your hard work."


Matt Heverly
Rover Planner
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory



Pei Liew
Graphic Design, Interaction Design
Art Center College of Design

Alex Sciuto
Graphic Design, Interaction Design
Carnegie Mellon University

John Thompson
Human Computer Interaction, Programming
Georgia Tech

Principal Investigators

John Wright
Mars Rover Planner
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Frank Hartman
Mars Rover Planner
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory