Belfast Telegraph

Project Sidekick: Nasa astronauts to take Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality headset to space

Nasa is working with Microsoft to take its augmented reality headset into space, and use it to help astronauts do difficult tasks while in orbit.

The agency will be able to use Microsoft’s new headset to add extra information to the spacecraft. That might let people see instructions on what buttons they should be pressing, for instance, or give people on the ground the ability to see from an astronauts perspective.

The first pair of the devices will head up into space on Sunday, on board a resupply mission that is being flown up by SpaceX, the private rocket company.

The HoloLens is a special headset that allows people to see virtual images displayed on top of the real world. It was introduced by Microsoft as part of the launch of Windows 10.

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

The two organisations have already been testing the headsets on Nasa’s Weightless Wonder C9 jet. That plane goes into free fall to simulate the microgravity environment of the space station.

The headsets will be used in two modes: Remote Expert Mode and Procedure Mode. Remote Expert Mode uses Skype to let ground operators see through the eyes of an astronaut, letting them give instructions and even draw on the augmented reality world that the crew member is seeing.

 Procedure Mode puts special illustrations on top of objects in the space station, potentially reducing the amount of training needed and helping out astronauts on long missions deep into space where they might not be able to talk to ground control.

Initially, the astronauts will only turn on the devices and check that they work. They will start using Sidekick functionality properly by the end of the year, according to Nasa.


Further reading

Microsoft at E3: Hololens augmented reality headset to let people play Minecraft in real life

Microsoft HoloLens: holographic goggles platform unveiled as part of Windows 10 

Oculus Rift buys Surreal Vision, letting company make virtual reality worlds out of the real one

Magic Leap: secretive virtual reality company releases holographic YouTube video 

Independent News Service