Pei Liew — Graphic Designer About Work Contact

Final visual direction

Final visual direction



An intuitive tool that helps Rover Planners (RPs) streamline their path planning process for the Curiosity rover on Mars. 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.


Driving a multi-billion dollar robot from 150 million miles away isn't an easy task.

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

They currently do this with a two-screen setup. To generate a path, RPs type in low-level commands (literally write some code), simulate the path, write more code, simulate again, and repeat until they're satisfied.


Generating a safe and efficient drive path is a cumbersome process that takes about 9 hours every day. The tools currently used are not intuitive and require RPs to do much of the analysis and decision making in their heads.


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.


Forwards and backwards tilting. Uphill pitch (red) means the rover will travel slower and undershoot its mark. Downhill pitch (green) means the rover will travel faster and may overshoot its mark.


Side to side tilting. Too much roll will cause the rover to tip over. We visualized roll as a histogram on either side of the rover's wheels.


RSketch Prototype

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

View data along the path both on the map and with a standard histogram / timeline 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