NASA Testing 'Science Fiction' Holographic Goggles for Astronauts on the ISS

Thursday, 25 June 2015 - 3:29PM
Technology
Virtual Reality
Thursday, 25 June 2015 - 3:29PM
NASA Testing 'Science Fiction' Holographic Goggles for Astronauts on the ISS
A few months ago, NASA announced their intention to develop augmented reality goggles to assist astronauts living on the ISS. At the time, they had rejected a proposal from Google Glass and were working with Osterhout Design Group, but now it seems that they have settled on collaborating with Microsoft. Microsoft is working with NASA on Project Sidekick, which will modify Microsoft's augmented reality Hololens goggles in order to give astronauts hands-free, real-time assistance on the ISS. 



Project Sidekick, which NASA hails as "bringing science fiction to science fact," aims to give astronaut crews virtual assistance from Earth in real time while they perform sensitive tasks with their hands. The goggles, which are already in the prototype stage, have two modes: "Remote Expert Mode" and "Procedural Mode." In "Remote Expert Mode," the goggles use Skype to show an operator on Earth what the astronaut can see on the space station, and provide verbal assistance. Since the goggles are equipped with augmented reality technology, the ground operator can also draw instructions or diagrams so they're projected into the astronaut's environment. 

In "Procedural Mode," the astronaut can use holographic illustrations that give directions about a specific task. Not only will the instructions appear before the astronaut's face, but they can be overlaid on the objects that the astronaut will use during each step of the procedure.

"HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station," ISS director Sam Scimemi said in a NASA statement. "This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars."

Two prototype devices are expected to launch to the ISS on June 28, at which time the astronaut crew will test the functionality of the Procedural Mode. If that test is successful, then further devices equipped with Remote Expert Mode will then be launched to the ISS and tested with network connectivity. NASA expects astronauts to use these "Sidekicks" in actual procedures by the end of this year. 

Jeff Norris, NASA's project leader for Sidekick, said, "Our team is excited to be building virtual and mixed reality tools that will make our explorers more efficient and effective."
Science
NASA
Technology
Virtual Reality

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