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NASA, Microsoft Launch Project Sidekick

The initiative is focused on using virtual reality technology on the International Space Station.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Microsoft have entered an agreement to develop Sidekick, a new project to bring virtual reality technology to the International Space Station. As part of the project, several pairs of HoloLens devices will be shipped to astronauts to use.

The goal of this initiative, the agency states, is to enable station crews with assistance when needed. By having extra help, ISS crews could increase efficiency.

The project has two modes of operation: Remote Expert Mode and Procedure Mode. With Remote Expert Mode, users leverage Skype to allow a ground operator to see what the crew sees, provide guidance and draw annotations. Procedure Mode uses holographic illustrations on top of the real environment to assist various tasks.

Once the HoloLens reach the ISS, crew members will test the software and hardware in a standalone mode.

“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,” said Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars.”

Sidekick will also be used during NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, where scientists will be living in an undersea research station for two weeks to collect data.

Below you’ll find a video of the hardware being tested:

For more information, visit NASA.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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