NASA to re-launch Microsoft HoloLens on December; Augmented reality tech provides inventory assistance to astronauts

By Staff Writer

Sep 15, 2015 10:15 AM EDT

NASA plans a second rocket launch to the International Space Station with two Microsoft HoloLens on board on December after its first attempt failed. The Microsoft HoloLens technology will be used to assist astronauts in inventory management and other tasks.

GeekWire reports that the re-launch of the Microsoft HoloLens by Orbital Sciences is scheduled on December 3. Jeff Norris, project manager of the HoloLens NASA project, says that the devices are ready to be blasted off to space.

The space project known as Sidekick is Microsoft and NASA's joint effort. Sidekick's main purpose is to provide assistance to astronauts. The project has two modes: remote expert and procedure modes.

The Remote Expert mode is a specialized version of Skype that connects astronauts with remote operators by allowing them to see what the astronauts are seeing. The operators in return can give instructions to the astronauts when they are faced with a difficult or unfamiliar task.

On the other hand, the Procedure mode does not need remote connection with operators. Instead, it acts somewhat like a 3D manual and provides the astronauts with integrated guides and diagrams which can be easily accessed when needed. The Microsoft HoloLens can used to show an astronaut where to properly place equipment inside the space station.

According to the MIT Technology Review, NASA wants to use the Microsoft HoloLens technology in space because of its practicality and time-saving capability. It can help with managing inventory since finding things can be difficult inside a massive space station. NASA created an app prototype that identifies an object and leads the HoloLens user to its location.

Crossmap reports that what makes the HoloLens unique is because it functions as a stand-alone headgear. There is no need to connect it with any other device or screen, giving it a variety of possible applications such as a gaming console. There are rumors that Apple is interested to make their own augmented-reality technology and has reportedly hired a HoloLens engineer through LinkedIn.

Reports say that Microsoft HoloLens will be released next year for developers only. The public probably will not see the device hitting the markets anytime soon. As for its price, an anonymous Microsoft executive said that the HoloLens will be considerably more expensive than the Xbox.

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