Microsoft's HoloLens is headed out of this world, with help from NASA

Astronauts will test the augmented-reality headgear on the International Space Station

Microsoft and NASA engineers test the HoloLens during a flight designed to simulate microgravity in space

Microsoft and NASA engineers test the HoloLens during a flight designed to simulate microgravity in space

Microsoft is sending its new augmented-reality headgear out of this world ... literally.

NASA announced Thursday that two HoloLens units will be sent to the International Space Station on the next SpaceX-operated resupply mission, due to go up on Sunday. The units will be used for a new "Sidekick" pilot program that's designed to help crews work on the ISS. The program provides augmented-reality overlays to educate astronauts about how to perform certain procedures on the station, which could eventually reduce the need for extensive crew training.

In the future, astronauts could rely on real-time augmented-reality instructions from the HoloLens to help them perform complex functions, which NASA thinks would make them more efficient.

Sidekick can operate in one of two modes a Skype-powered "Remote Expert Mode" or a "Procedure Mode" that provides standalone instructions. When crew members get the devices, they'll test out the hardware and software functionality "in a standalone mode" to confirm that it works. A second set of HoloLenses, which will allow astronauts to test Remote Expert Mode, will be sent up on a later mission.

According to NASA, astronauts are expected to start using the Sidekick software by the end of this year. Sidekick is also slated for testing in late July during a mission NASA astronauts and engineers will undertake to the Aquarius undersea research station.

The announcement of the program comes alongside a video showing Microsoft and NASA engineers (including HoloLens frontman Alex Kipman) testing the device in a weightless environment. Based on the testing shown, it seems like HoloLens would be well suited for use in space, since it allows astronauts to use a computer that's attached to their body rather than having to wrangle a weightless physical device. That said, the device's narrow field of view could be problematic in the close quarters of the ISS.

Sidekick isn't the only application NASA has for the device. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has also built an app called OnSight that allows users to virtually explore the surface of Mars using imagery displayed by the HoloLens.

Kipman said in a news release that the Sidekick software was a prime example of the sort of applications Microsoft envisions for the HoloLens. The company has also partnered with other organizations, including Case Western Reserve University and Trimble, to develop experiences for the device. It's not all business, either: Microsoft demonstrated a holographic version of the popular game Minecraft at the Electronic Entertainment Expo last week.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags peripheralsMicrosofthardware systems

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?