Euro astronauts could replace laptops with AR headsets

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Euro astronauts could replace laptops with AR headsets
Source: ESA

For science experiments and space station work.

The European Space Agency is trialling augmented reality (AR) headsets for astronauts to potentially replace conventional laptops for science experiments aboard space stations.

Participants in the trial see a display of 12 targets in a circle and are connected to motion detection sensors. When the astronaut becomes weightless aboard a parabolic flight, they are shown a target to be touched on fixed, vertical board in front of them, the agency said.

Data from the trial will be used to further develop the AR devices and the software they run.

"Detailed instructions displayed on a laptop often require astronauts to interrupt their workflow and concentration to refer back to checklists," the agency said. It hopes AR helmets will make it easier and more efficient for astronauts to work with science experiments aboard the International Space Station.

The ESA is experimenting with AR for maintenance and monitoring of space crafts as well. 

Last month it announced the two-year engineering data in cross-platform AR (EdcAR) project, developed by Finnish company VTT Technical Research Centre.

Astronauts see detailed visual instructions on the AR display to guide them in their work.

The system also visualises telemetry data from systems on the space station, such as fault diagnostics, maintenance information, life cycle, radiation, pressure and temperature measurements.

Trials of VTT's solution built with Microsoft's HoloLens headset at a mock-up of the ISS in Cologne have shown the approach reduces errors and the time it takes to perform criticial maintenance and other manual tasks, the agency said.

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