NASA announced Wednesday that it is teaming up with Microsoft to develop a new software technology that will allow scientists to virtually perform work on Mars while using the HoloLens, according to TECH TIMES.
Called OnSight, the software will be developed by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, mainly offering scientists a means of planning and conducting science experiments on the Red Planet alongside the Mars Curiosity rover. By giving scientists the ability to walk around Mars like they’re there, Onsight has the potential to change perceptions of the Red Planet and how scientists on Earth understand the environment rovers are thrust in.
The software will be using real data from the Curiosity rover, extending planning tools in existence with the addition of a 3D simulation of the environment on Mars. Scientists around the world can actually meet in this environment and examine the rover’s worksite for themselves, seeing in first person what the Curiosity sees for a preview of results which will let them plan their next steps accordingly.
Jeff Norris, OnSight project manager for the JPL, believes the software will enhance how people currently explore Mars and will give scientists the opportunity to share missions with space exploration supporters around the world.
Until now, operating rovers meant scientists are limited to examining images on computer screens and making inferences based simply on what they were seeing. Unfortunately, even with 3D stereo views, images don’t offer the same depth that human vision offers that aids in understanding spatial relationships.
OnSight will be using holographic technology overlaid with rover data and visual information. As actual and computer-generated images are blended, scientists will be able to take strolls on the Red Planet or examine rocky outcrops more closely by crouching down, much like they would in real life. Interaction becomes more natural then, facilitating the exploration and understanding of Mars.
The JPL aims to begin OnSight tests in the Curiosity rover’s missions later in the year. The software may also play a role in rover missions in 2020, as well as support other applications that will further NASA’s goals of exploring Mars and beyond.
The Microsoft HoloLens is a holographic computer running on Windows 10. Completely untethered, it lets users see and hear holograms, fitted with advanced sensors to enhance how a user would interact with the world while using the HoloLens. As the first platform that supports holographic computing, Windows 10 boasts of improving how people essentially create, explore and communicate.