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Stardust Technologies from Cochrane is Making New Simulation Technology Using Virtual Reality to Aid Astronauts

Stardust Technologies, a tech company based in Cochrane is reportedly taking virtual reality (VR) to new heights where it has never been before— the space. The tech biz is researching new avenues of VR to explore how simulations of Earth-bound experiences can improve the mental health of astronauts while they are onboard the ISS (International Space Station) or eventually, during long space journeys.

Jawad El Houssine, the chief technology officer of Stardust technologies said that it is very important to make the astronauts feel at home like they are on Earth. To achieve this goal, he opined, virtual reality can be very useful.

Testing Virtual Reality in Zero Gravity

Stardust’s VR team is the first one to use the Oculus Quest VR headset by Facebook in an environment with zero gravity. They are developing the project by collaborating with the National Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Space Agency to test how this new technology would work outside of our planet because initially, it was designed to work within Earth’s gravitational force.

Not willing to go out in the space themselves, researchers from Stardust are conducting a series of test flights in a space research center based in Ottawa. They are using an airplane model that can mimic gravitational force while in space, on Mars, and on the moon. Jawad reported that following a couple of test flights, the team has been successful to make the Oculus Quest VR headset work 100% in zero gravity so far.

Simulating Earth in Outer Space

Stardust is currently working on “Project Eden” in which they are trying to create a fully simulated experience of Earth in space. For this purpose, they are using a combination of artificial intelligence, a haptic feedback suit that can efficiently simulate experiences like touch, rain, or wind, and of course, virtual reality.

Jason Michaud, Stardust’s CEO, said that the project is conceived to help astronauts improve their mental health and equip them to overcome feelings like isolation, homesickness, and stress. He said that this technology will allow astronauts to do regular recreational things like playing hockey in microgravity or meditating with others on Earth while they are living on the International Space Station.

A World of Possibilities 

Michaud holds very high ambitions for the Eden Project. He envisions this technology being used in NASA’s lunar mission projected for 2024, as well as in any eventual mission to Mars.

Concurring with Michaud, El Houssine stated that the requirement for immersive entertainment during long voyages is already a familiar concept. He mentions the on-board games Spaniards used to play in the 15th century as they set sail to the New World or the songs they used to sing together. However, it only sounds reasonable that today, people will need more engaging and advanced forms of entertainment. Hence, the research team continues to work so that Project Eden is ready to be used on the ISS and any future voyage.

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