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Microsoft HoloLens Being Used by Astronauts for Augmented Reality Powered Upgrade Tasks

NASA is relying on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology based solutions to help with ISS upgrades and maintenance tasks. It is delving into the possibilities of robotic vehicle and arm controls.

Utilising different technological innovations
NASA is utilising different technological innovations including HoloLens from Microsoft, with the purpose of facilitating scientific experiments on the International Space Station (ISS). In the past, VR and AR solutions have been useful for many tasks in space. This is because remote controlling and interactions are significant for ISS maintenance tasks, and facilitating communications with on-the-ground team members.

Cold Atom Lab
Cold Atom Lab or CAL by NASA is one of the most vital equipment for International Space Station scientific experience. The device is capable of creating atom clouds at very low temperatures incredibly fast, and is comparable to the average minifridge in size. The device is capable of creating circumstances where atoms do not have much motion at one ten-billionth of a degree over the absolute zero mark. It is thus considered to be a suitable option for examining quantum characteristics. Such a setup would be hard to develop and maintain on the ground for long time periods. The CAL can easily perform the above-mentioned task in microgravity situations.

Remote assistance
The HoloLens mixed reality headset from Microsoft was used by NASA to provide remote assistance with an upgraded CAL version to Megan McArthur, an astronaut on the ISS. The device was utilised at the hardware upgrade phase, to facilitate a clear view for the on-the-ground team. The option of using another camera was not feasible as it would obstruct the view in several ways for those watching from Earth. The CAL team on Earth are able to offer both drawings and texts to show what step McArthur should take during the upgrade session. The Earth team displayed an overlay of information to her, including elements such as arrows for pinpointing zip ties and cables to work with. The exact information about the upgrades is not known as NASA has not revealed the details.

ISS astronauts are generally equipped with sound technical knowledge and are proficient at relaying remote instructions. The introduction of augmented reality technology makes the entire experience more convenient. The new technology enables scientists on Earth to have the same field of view as an astronaut. As a result, misunderstandings can be cleared up without delay and there is less chance of errors. This approach is more practical to the problem solving requirements of astronauts. Augmented reality helps them get guidance within their field of view and enhances the quality of their work they can do.

Effectively extensions
NASA is utilising AR and VR technology to discover how they can gain improved robotic arm and vehicle controls. The machines are effectively extensions of the bodies of individuals as they have haptic interfaces capable of motion and touch simulation. The use of remote controlled devices can enhance the speed of operations and improve outcomes.

With further developments expected in the future, augmented reality can be used more for repair tasks.

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