Microsoft’s mind-bending HoloLens headset is about to be blasted into space. Two sets are on their way to the International Space Station (ISS) this weekend as part of Project Sidekick that aims to “provide virtual aid to astronauts working off the Earth, for the Earth,” as NASA puts it.
This is a real coup for Microsoft as it continues its efforts to highlight the capabilities of its new hologram-based AR technology that it unveiled earlier this year. NASA and Microsoft have already tested out the kit on a weightless jet, and this weekend will put it aboard a rocket as part of a resupply mission for ISS.
Related: DT goes hands-on with HoloLens
So how exactly will the astronauts be using HoloLens? Well, it’s a safe bet Minecraft’s off the menu (for now, at least). Instead, they’ll be trying out various work-based systems to learn more about how to get the most out of HoloLens in space.
These include a “Remote Expert Mode” which, using Skype, lets a ground operator see exactly what a crew member sees. The ground operator can then communicate instructions for things like experiments or repairs by drawing annotations into the crew member’s environment to show them how to complete a specific task. At the moment, astronauts rely solely on written and voice instructions for such situation.
NASA says HoloLens could ultimately help to reduce training time for future crews and could even aid missions into deep space, where communication delays cause major challenges.
Commenting on HoloLens’ maiden space voyage, Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS program at NASA Headquarters, described Microsoft’s face-based kit and other similar devices as “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.”
Speaking of Mars, DT’s editor was lucky enough to go there earlier this year….with a little help from HoloLens, that is.