When Cygnus docked Thursday on the International Space Station to deliver the 7,000 pounds of cargo, one of the goodies that astronauts received - aside from food and scientific implements - was the Microsoft HoloLens. So what exactly will the astronauts do with an augmented reality headset? The device, it turns out, will have certain practical uses.
The HoloLens will be useful in at least two working situations: going through a list of procedures and interacting with space equipment, Scott Kelly, one of the astronauts aboard the ISS said in an interview with Popular Science.
"So let's say we're working on a piece of hardware, and we're not that familiar with it, but we have an expert on the ground, you know that person could basically see what we're seeing and make annotations, point to things, and kind of lead us through a particular activity," Kelly said.
The HoloLens is a part of an experiment called Project Sidekick, a collaboration between NASA and Microsoft that aims to empower astronauts in space with commercial technology and provide them with assistance from the ground when and where they need it. The device will be tested as part of the first phase of the experiment.
"Microsoft HoloLens is about transforming the ways you create, connect, and explore," Alex Kipman, technical fellow at Microsoft said in a NASA press statement. "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."
It is not yet known whether the astronauts will be able to play games or watch entertainment content with the HoloLens in a zero gravity environment. In the meantime, watch NASA conduct a Project Sidekick experiment below using an augmented reality headset: