Two pairs of HoloLens glasses will be delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) on 28 June to allow astronauts to carry out augmented reality experiments in orbit.
Microsoft and Nasa have collaborated on a project known as Sidekick, which will see HoloLens used to deliver instructions to astronauts and provide real-time feedback on what an astronaut is seeing.
A ‘Remote Expert Mode’ will use Skype to let experts on the ground see what an astronaut is seeing and provide real-time guidance. Ground crew can also draw annotations and add them to the astronaut’s environment to help with a complex task. Currently Nasa uses text and voice instructions to help astronauts carry out repairs and experiments aboard the ISS.
Sidekick also has a ‘Procudure Mode’, which adds animated holographic information on top of objects. The system is likely to be used during training aboard the ISS, with Nasa claiming it could be “an invaluable resource” for manned missions to Mars and beyond.
HoloLens has already been tested aboard the space agency’s Weightless Wonder C9 jet to ensure it functions correctly in microgravity. The technology will also be used during Nasa’s two-week long undersea experiment, beginning 21 July. HoloLens will be tested by astronauts living in an undersea base designed to replicate conditions likely to be found during future space exploration missions.
Once HoloLens arrives on the ISS it will be tested before a second set of glasses are delivered on a future supply mission. Nasa expects astronauts to be using Sidekick by the end of the year.
Microsoft and Nasa’s work on Sidekick is part of a larger project to see how augmented reality can be used in space. Another project, known as OnSight, will see software developed to enable scientists to work virtually on Mars using HoloLens and other technology. There were also reports in 2014 that Google’s now-retired 1.0 Glass experiment was headed to ISS — though the results of that test have not been revealed.