On November 7, 2016, visitors at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) at NASA’s headquarters had the privilege of virtually walking on Mars, thanks to Microsoft HoloLens. The visitors also tackled a rover and explored a 3D prototype during a presentation and reality demo at the New York University School of Engineering.
The virtual reality technology was demonstrated by Mathew Clausen, the creative director at JPL and Marijke Jorritsma, an intern at JPL from New York University. The presentation aimed to illustrate the use of the Microsoft HoloLens to project virtual photos of Mars on earth.
The Road to Virtual Reality in Space
Recently another similar virtual reality tool was revealed at Kennedy Space Centre. This research allowed visitors to tour Mars using a holographic Buzz Aldrin. In the past, researchers used Martian locations in line with flat panoramas of surfaces pictured by rovers. According to Clausen’s group, these researchers were twice as accurate in reading distances and thrice as accurate in angle specification when using Martian scenes to look around.
Given that the device was easy to use and more accurate, scientists found out that they could get more realistic images of the scene in terms of geographical presentations.
The Sidekick Project
In the same presentation at New York University, Clausen and his colleague talked about Project Sidekick. This is a project used at NASA to guide astronauts when going through complicated procedures. The directors at the International Space Station can watch astronauts’ actions and use diagrams and extra information to guide them while in space.
The two virtual technologies have helped space explorations to be much easier and more accurate. NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) aquanauts can use the HoloLens technology to perform activities in only an hour, that could have otherwise taken over 4 hours in the past. Also, Project Sidekick could come in handy in scenarios requiring multi-step procedures such as fires.