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USC and UA Students Collaborating on an Augmented Reality Interface for Conveying Information to Astronauts

An Innovative Astronaut Challenge Is Set to Push the Barriers of Lunar Exploration Expeditions

Students from the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona are collaborating on an exciting new project to enhance the prospects of lunar exploration. They are developing augmented reality (AR) interfaces that can be utilised by astronauts on the surface of the moon. The USC/UA team was among several chosen by NASA within its Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students (SUITS) programme. The objective is to design prospective information displays within augmented reality environments for upcoming lunar missions.

NASA is researching new methods to use augmented reality technology in spacesuit design for the Artemis lunar mission to facilitate greater human autonomy, and improve exploration possibilities on the surface of the moon. The NASA SUITS challenge is designed to enhance the relaying of information to astronauts in order to address many of the most difficult elements of lunar exploration. The USC/UA team is optimistic about making a display that will deliver information to lunar astronauts who are on the moon’s surface and must constantly watch information including the locations of themselves and their rovers without being able to rely on GPS. They can also check other important information such as their own pulse rates and blood oxygen levels.

Team Aegis is the name given to the joint team of the universities. Darlene Villicaa, team founder and co-lead for this project, and a Visual Anthropology graduate student at USC said that their team is going forward with the project from an inter-discipline standpoint. According to her, the team comprises skilled students hailing from streams like computer science, astronautical engineering, anthropology, and geology. They are all contributing to surpassing the hurdles that are coming up as the project progresses.

The joint team is doing research to guide the design through the process of interviewing astronauts with Garrett Reisman, USC’s resident Space Suitor Emeritus (former NASA astronaut) and Professor of Astronautics Practice, USC, who is also a former astronaut.

According to Reisman, his experience wearing a spacesuit outside of the ISS has made it evident that having something like an AR display that can relay useful communications and information can help to enhance outcomes for the future batches of astronauts. He stressed that these professionals can also become more capable of exploring more.

USC Project lead and astronautical engineering master’s academic Evan Cooper, who leads the project teams developing the multiple software user interfaces and behind-the-scenes data transfer, is really enthusiastic to translate the yield into other sectors. He said that the exploration of space has such a rich history of returning scientific advances from space to those on Earth. Augmented reality technology is among the fields offering a high level of leverage  in terms of enhancing accessibility, community and space exploration.

NASA experts evaluated several proposals made during the project and chose some of them for the next NASA SUITS round. The project will culminate at the Johnson Space Center in May where the finalists will test their mettle against each other.

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