NASA Takes Space Geekiness to New Heights with Microsoft HoloLens

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nasa microsoft hololens on astronaut February 2016

Left in the cool, floating technological hub that is the ISS, astronauts tends to let their geek flag fly.  This is particularly true when it comes to social media.  We’ve had one individual astronaut covering Bowie’s Space Oddity, and others donning Star Trek uniforms.  However, NASA’s latest experiment with technology takes space geekiness to new heights, quite literally.

While virtual reality has been the talk of the town of late, Microsoft has gone another route that might be of far more use to astronauts; augmented reality.  NASA will be experimenting with this technology in the future, as astronaut Scott Kelly proved with a very serious looking Twitter post.

As Kelly approaches the end of his year-long mission on the ISS, he has been sent a Microsoft HoloLens headset.  The specific reason for this is not made clear in his post, but certain people in the know believe that the headset will help greatly in various tasks which may be expected of the astronaut, such as repairs to the internal and external hardware of the ISS while in orbit.

Scott Kelly Microsoft HoloLens Space February 2016

https://twitter.com/StationCDRKelly/status/701059142769836032/photo/1

How the Microsoft HoloLens can Help NASA

While several brands of headgear aim to make our reality virtual, the Microsoft HoloLens simply augments it.  But, while we say ‘simply’, the HoloLens is actually a complex piece of equipment.

The headset is, in itself, a full contained holographic computer, which is able to place high definition holograms into the world of the wearer.  Thus, designers will be able to see their designs in three dimensions as they’re creating them, drivers will be able to see projections of speeds and obstacles as they drive, and casual TV viewers will be able to view athletes’ statistics as they are watching sports.

The holographic projections will certainly be able to aid astronauts in the completion of complex procedures.  Termed the ‘Sidekick Project’, the use of the HoloLens by astronauts will help astronauts work in space as well as reduce the amount of training necessary for astronauts on the ground.

The HoloLens uses Skype to allow ground operators to see what the astronauts are seeing, and provide detailed guidance to assist with certain tasks.  It is also able to augment certain procedures with holographic projections, making it possible for new astronauts to get into space with less training than they required in the past.

Is it a good idea to rely more heavily on real-time instruction and holographic assistance than on old-fashioned training?  It remains to be seen.  However, while NASA is ironing out the kinks, the astronauts in the ISS are certainly having a lot of fun.

Image credit: http://www.planetminecraft.com/blog/microsoft-teams-up-with-nasa-using-hololens/

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