Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will be more empowered now, thanks to a partnership between Microsoft and NASA. A new project will be developed using commercial technology, which will be called the Sidekick. The project will use Microsoft HoloLens that can provide virtual assistance to the astronauts who will be working on the ISS. A pair of HoloLens was launched on SpaceX’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the ISS on 28th June, 2015.
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The aim of Sidekick is to help the ISS crews wherever and whenever they need it. With Sidekick, the crew training requirements could decrease and the competence with which astronauts work in space will be increased significantly.
Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said “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. This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars.”
Alex Kipman, technical professional, Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, said “Microsoft HoloLens is about transforming the ways you create, connect, and explore. Sidekick is a prime example of an application for which we envisioned HoloLens being used – unlocking new potential for astronauts and giving us all a new perspective on what is possible with holographic computing.”
Modes of Operation
There are two modes of operation of Sidekick- the Remote Expert Mode and the Procedure Mode. The first mode uses Skype to show a ground member the same sight that a crew member is seeing, thereby allowing real-time guidance. It will also allow the ground members to draw annotations in the crew member’s space to guide him/her via a task. Repairing tasks were done using voice or written instructions till now.
The second mode enhances standalone processes with holographic illustrations which are animated and showed on top of the objects with which crew is working. This function could reduce the amount of training the crew will need in the future. It could also be helpful for running the mission smoothly in space, where the delays in communication tend to make operations difficult.
The testing of Project Sidekick and Microsoft HoloLens was done by Microsoft and NASA engineers on board NASA’s Weightless Wonder C9 jet to ensure that they can work properly on the International Space Station.
However, it is unfortunate that the first attempt to send the HoloLens into space failed, as the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying an unmanned crew with the devices and resupply equipment exploded about two minutes after liftoff.
What do you think?
What’s your take on this partnership between NASA and Microsoft? Will it really help the astronauts? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Image & Article Source – jpl.nasa.gov