NASA and Microsoft partnered to develop Project Sidekick to empower astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). They tested Microsoft HoloLens aboard NASA’s Weightless Wonder C9 jet to ensure they function as expected in free-fall in advance of their delivery to the microgravity environment of the space station. It was also used and evaluated during the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 20 expedition when a group of astronauts and engineers live in the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius, for two weeks. Watch Project Sidekick member from NASA talk about developing this project at this year’s Unity 3D Vision Summit.
Sidekick has two modes of operation. The first is “Remote Expert Mode,” which uses Skype, part of Microsoft, to allow a ground operator to see what a crew member sees, provide real-time guidance, and draw annotations into the crew member’s environment to coach him or her through a task. Until now, crew members have relied on written and voice instructions when performing complex repair tasks or experiments.
The second mode is “Procedure Mode,” which augments standalone procedures with animated holographic illustrations displayed on top of the objects with which the crew is interacting. This capability could lessen the amount of training that future crews will require and could be an invaluable resource for missions deep into our solar system, where communication delays complicate difficult operations.