Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are expected to start testing out Microsoft’s augmented reality headset – HoloLens – in the next few days when a pair of the devices will be delivered to them during a resupply mission on 28 June.
The devices are being used as part of a project called Sidekick, set up by Nasa and Microsoft, to explore how the technology can help out astronauts during missions and eventually allow them to go paperless.
Sidekick will have two modes of operation initially. Remote Expert Mode uses Skype to allow a ground operator to see what a crew member sees, provide real-time guidance and draw annotations into the crew member’s environment to coach him or her through a task.
Procedure Mode augments standalone procedures with animated holographic illustrations displayed on top of the objects with which the crew is interacting.
HoloLens has already been tried out aboard Nasa’s Weightless Wonder C9 jet (pictured). The headsets will also be used during the Nasa Extreme Environment Mission Operations 20 expedition set to begin on 21 July when a group of astronauts and engineers will live in the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius, for two weeks.
“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,” said Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS programme at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars.”
This is not the first time Microsoft and Nasa have worked together. Earlier this year, they began developing software called OnSight, which will enable scientists to work virtually on Mars using the same HoloLens technology.
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