NASA Developing Augmented Reality Goggles for Astronauts Living on the ISS
Someday soon, astronauts living on the ISS could all be wearing augmented reality goggles. After Google unceremoniously rejected a proposal for a collaboration with Google Glass, NASA is teaming up with Osterhout Design Group in order to overlay virtual reality with the reality of space travel.
The augmented reality goggles would have the ability to project information onto the lenses, allowing the astronauts to follow virtual instructions while keeping their hands free, particularly in emergency situations.
"It's the ability, in a heads-up display, to give people guidance and information, to give them check lists, directions, and see-through manuals," Pete Jameson, ODG's chief operating officer, said to Bloomberg.
The goggles themselves are ready, but NASA researchers are working on integrating their software into the technology. They plan to test the glasses in an underwater lab later this year, and if that test is successful, the glasses will make their way into space.
By all accounts, this technology is sorely needed. Currently, when NASA astronauts encounter a problem with their equipment on the ISS, they are delayed by the cumbersome process of looking through hard copy instruction manuals. Often, rather than painstakingly flipping through index cards bound by rings, they are forced to simply call down to the base. But, if all goes well, in future missions this will no longer be feasible. NASA is planning to gradually take their astronauts further and further from Earth, particularly in their mission to Mars. In deep space, it would take too long to call down to base to resolve any time-sensitive issues. A call to Earth from Mars, for example, would take approximately 20 minutes.
"We knew we were ahead of the game," said Sean Carter, a strategic partnerships manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center. "For us, this is huge today, and it gets even bigger tomorrow. The further we go away from earth, the more we need this."
NASA originally wanted to work with Google to bring Google Glass to space, but Google turned them down, citing a desire to focus exclusively on the consumer space. But maybe that's for the best, as astronauts testing the equipment told AOL: "The screen was too small, and it was awkward to scroll through things quickly."
There isn't an official timeline for bringing the technology to the ISS, but NASA officials are optimistic that it will be up there soon, if only because it's necessary to the point of being overdue. "By the fall, we will have astronaut and crew feedback," said Carter. "It's our goal to approach the programs shortly thereafter. I don't know that the crew will let us wait that long."