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New Software Language Helps Computers Better Understand Nuanced Commands

The process specification language should make computers much more useful in manufacturing, federal researchers say.
A new software language will let computers think about the consequences of their commands.

The language, ISO 18629, promises to let computers reason much more precisely than they do now and better ponder nuances intended by commands given by their human operators. Developed by federal government researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and colleagues in France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom, the process-specification-language software should make computers much more useful in manufacturing.

The process specification language describes a neutral representation for manufacturing processes. Manufacturers use process data throughout the life cycle of a product, from early indications of manufacturing process flagged during product design through process planning, validation, production scheduling and control, according to the Web site VSC4Online. In addition, the notion of process also underlies the entire manufacturing cycle, coordinating the workflow within engineering and shop-floor manufacturing.

ISO 18629 employs artificial intelligence and language analysis to denote computer commands in the framework of a production plan. NIST reports that researchers have integrated some 300 concepts, such as duration and sequence, into its software structure. "Computers using software with this expanded, though still primitive AI capacity, can act on a word's meaning, interpreting a command almost like a person," a NIST document says.

Here's an example NIST provides:

A person who hears the commands "paint it, before shipping it" and "turn on the coolant, before milling" understands that the word before has slightly different meanings in these two examples. In the first command, it's understood that painting and drying must be completed prior to the next action, shipping. In the second example, the first action, turning on the coolant, continues after the milling starts. ISO 18629 supports computer systems with this type of rudimentary understanding of context-specific language.

NIST researchers say the ISO 18629 language is especially suited for the exchange of process planning, validation, production scheduling, and control information for guiding manufacturing processes. The International Organization for Standardization, which has endorsed six sections of the nascent standard, is reviewing the last of its three sections. Once ISO gives its blessing, software vendors can begin to use the language to build a variety of advanced manufacturing systems.