The Microsoft HoloLens technology may not be ready for the general public, but the augmented reality headset is ready to go into outer space. NASA will be sending two HoloLens headsets to the International Space Station on Sunday, June 28. The purpose is to help develop Sidekick, a program to help out astronauts on board the ISS.
The pair of HoloLens devices will be part of the cargo that's being sent to the ISS via SpaceX's latest unmanned resupply rocket. Once on board, the astronauts will test both the software and hardware in a standalone mode. Another pair of HoloLens devices will be sent up later this year that the crew will test with a network connection to Earth. The headsets will go into full use on the ISS by the end of the year.
Here's what Sidekick will offer astronauts while they wear the HoloLens:
"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."
Microsoft and NASA have already been testing HoloLens in zero gravity simulations on board ASA's Weightless Wonder C9 jet.