Microsoft’s HoloLens headset is set to be sent into space by virtue of a partnership between Microsoft and NASA, with the HoloLens to provide virtual aid for astronauts.A pair of the devices will launch on SpaceX’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on June 28, NASA has advised, with Microsoft and NASA teaming up for Project Sidekick, aiming to reduce crew training requirements and increase the efficiency at which astronauts can work in space.
Sidekick is part of a larger partnership between NASA and Microsoft exploring the applications of holographic computing in space exploration, with the two earlier in the year announcing a collaboration to develop software called OnSight, a new technology to enable scientists to work virtually on Mars using HoloLens tech.
Sidekick has two modes of operation, Remote Expert Mode and Procedure Mode.
Remote Expert Mode employs Skype to allow a ground operator to see what a crew member sees, providing real-time guidance and drawing annotations into the crew member’s environment to coach him or her through a task, while Procedure Mode augments standalone procedures with animated holographic illustrations displayed on top of the objects with which the crew is interacting.
The crew members will test and verify the software and hardware functionality in a standalone mode after the devices have arrived at the space station, with a second set of devices to be delivered on a future mission, which will test and verify Sidekick functionality with network connectivity to test the Remote Expert Mode.
“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 at NASA, commented.
“This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars.”
NASA stated it expects astronauts on the station will first use Sidekick by the end of the year.