Two HoloLens headsets are going to the International Space Station. NASA and Microsoft announced today that they are working together on a project called Sidekick, which pairs ground-based experts with orbiting astronauts via the holographic headset to work through complex tasks.
Microsoft and NASA had already worked on a demo for the HoloLens debut, showing off how the augmented reality device could help pick out interesting features for a Mars rover to investigate. Now, the HoloLens has been tested within NASA’s Weightless Wonder C9 jet in preparation for its launch into orbit.
Once the headsets are cleared for use, they’ll function in one of Sidekick’s two modes. “Remote Expert Mode” uses Skype to relay what the astronaut see back to Earth, and an Earthbound operator can draw directly into the astronaut’s field of view, outlining the next step or drawing attention to an important detail.
The second mode, “Procedure Mode,” stands alone, allowing astronauts to load up illustrations or other guides to help them get through setting up an experiment or repairing a broken machine. This mode will be more helpful for deep-space exploration, where communication lags make the remote expert mode practically useless.
“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,” said Microsoft’s Alex Kipman in the press release.
The two augmented reality headsets will launch Sunday with SpaceX’s resupply mission for the ISS. The initial test units will be used to verify that the hardware and software work in space and will test the procedure mode. A second pair of headsets will be sent up later to test the network needs of the remote expert mode.