The six challenge focus areas for NASA iTech's 2018 Cycle I were:

Artificial Intelligence: Increased efficiency in data mining of large data sets

There was a time when collecting a huge data set was as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack, but as technology has developed, that is no longer an issue.  Today’s challenge is identifying a specific needle in a pile of needles and being able to extract and utilize the data.  For example, in a massive weather dataset, how do we find a tropical cyclone among all of the other data?

Augmented Reality Advancement: Virtual worlds for medical, physiological, and/or physical training

Deep space exploration creates challenges that augmented reality tools may be able to address.  Examples include assisting with medical procedures; addressing psychological issues when time is limited and distance from physicians and families is great; and/or providing computer-generated physical training capabilities. Solutions should help minimize risk for future missions.

Autonomy: Success in the face of limited data

Today we train machines to “learn” through thousands–even tens of thousands or millions–of examples. But, the challenges of future space exploration are unprecedented. How do you equip machines and computers to make smart decisions when there aren’t millions of examples to learn from – and tech support is literally millions of miles away? Those who you know how to teach machines to make the best decisions with limited data, would go far in 2018 Cycle I.

High Performance Computing: Improved performance/lower cost

With the creation of massive datasets, we now need to process that data more cost-effectively to make efficient use of it.  How can we significantly drop the cost and increase the speed of processing – perhaps by an order of magnitude?

Medical Breakthrough: New approaches that will revolutionize human health and healthcare

Examples include, but are not limited to, lab analysis technologies, flexible ultrasound technologies, in-situ production capabilities for medicine or food, and technologies that can extend the life of medicine and/or food.  The best ideas rose to the top.

X-Factor: Innovations so compelling NASA should know about them

You have something–you know you do–something so cool something so revolutionary that we didn't even know to ask for it, "but NASA has got to know!”  If that was your response to the announcement of our 2018 Cycle I Focus Areas but your innovation didn't fit with another category, this was your category.