NASA, ODG explore smart glasses for space

Does virtual reality technology have a place in future space missions?


NASA and ODG have revealed a partnership to explore the use of ODG's virtual reality Smart Glasses for missions in space.

Announced on Wednesday, the collaborative efforts of NASA and Osterhout Design Group (ODG) will focus on developing virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology in smart glasses for NASA space missions.

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ODG's Smart Glasses have been six years in the making. The glasses, focused on government and enterprise users, include military-grade technology, 3D optics, sensors for hands-free operation and run ReticleOS, a customized version of Android Jelly Bean.

"Packed with positional sensors, the Glasses know where you are, where you're looking, and how you're moving, enabling precise AR and exciting VR experiences in even the most demanding environments," ODG says.

The companies say a potential early use of the headset by the space agency is 'Assisted Reality' software which enables line-of-sight checklists, telepresence uses, and the ability to overlay digital markers on machinery or equipment. This could, in turn, improve the accuracy and efficiency of astronauts' in-flight activities -- such as providing digital support and guidelines as an overlay on machinery while the operator's hands are free to patch problems. NASA says this is becoming increasingly important as space missions are launched for longer and longer durations.

The VR headset is already used in the medical, energy and utility fields.

Lauri Hansen, Engineering Director at NASA Johnson Space Center commented:

"As electronic directions and instructions replace paper checklists and longer duration missions are considered, there is a need for tools that can meet evolving demands. ODG's technology provides an opportunity to increase space mission efficiencies and we are pleased to explore its potential in human spaceflight while also advancing its use here on earth."

Virtual reality headsets are now entering their infancy within the consumer space, and haven't been without issues. Earlier this year, Google canned its own Glass project as interest in the device dwindled. It is going to take some time before these kinds of headsets are accepted in the mainstream -- and have an affordable price tag to match -- but in the meantime, the possibilities for virtual reality in the enterprise, research and gaming fields are endless.

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