NASA And Microsoft Team Up For Virtual Reality Testing In Space

Software giant Microsoft’s HoloLens has partnered with NASA to launch Project Sidekick. Project Sidekick is an initiative to send HoloLens devices to the International Space Station to explore the possibilities of holographic computing in space. In accordance with the plan, this Sunday, ISS will receive HoloLens devices during SpaceX’s commercial resupply mission.

Microsoft’s HonloLens was first introduced in January. It is a reality headset that mixes the virtual world with the real world. Microsoft and NASA are hopeful that this technology would decrease crew training requirements and increase the efficiency at which astronauts work in space.

HoloLens will be helping astronauts communicate back home (Earth) in a lot of ways. For example, the ‘remote expert mode’ is where ground operators can use Skype to be able to see what a crew member sees. Operators can then virtually draw notes in a crew member’s environment to help with complex repair tasks. This is a huge step forward because up till now they have been using written and voice instructions in order to communicate back and forth.

Another mode called the ‘procedure mode’ is where animated holographic illustrations are overlaid onto objects with which the crew is interacting. An invaluable asset because it will help with crew training, for missions deep into space, where communication delays are a major hindrance.

But all of this is not happening immediately, first the products have to be tested by crew members and they have to verify the hardware and software’s functionality offline, then on a future mission a set of HoloLens glasses will be delivered and be used to run tests with network connectivity.

NASA and Micrsoft are hopeful start using the technology by the end of this year.

Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement. “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,” “This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars.”

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