Microsoft's Futuristic HoloLens Heads to International Space Station

by Devin Coldewey /  / Updated 
NASA-Bill Stafford

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Microsoft's HoloLens, a headset that shows virtual worlds overlaid on what users see, is about to get its most extreme application yet — on the International Space Station. NASA and Microsoft have collaborated on software for the headset called "Sidekick" that could help astronauts in their daily duties.

Sidekick's "Procedure Mode" illustrates actions and instructions over the objects an astronaut is looking at — pointing out switches and dials, perhaps, or reminding them of a missed step in a process. "Remote Expert Mode" connects via Skype to an Earth-bound counterpart who can annotate the user's visual field, helping them identify or fix items that they may not be familiar with, like custom modules or instructions in another language.

Related: Microsoft Shows Off New 'Minecraft' Built for Virtual Reality

Sidekick has been tested in a weightless environment but will soon get the full space treatment when it's schduled to arrive this weekend aboard SpaceX's resupply mission to the ISS. It won't have networking capabilities just yet (so Remote Expert isn't an option) but it'll be tested rigorously nevertheless. A second, online test will be conducted on a future mission, and the headset will also be tested in NASA's undersea environment.

Related: SpaceX: Odds of Successful Falcon 9 Rocket Landing on Barge Are 'Uncertain'

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