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Augmented reality to assist astronauts

Augmented reality to assist astronauts

Technology News |
By Rich Pell


The two-year EdcAR project (Engineering data in cross platform AR) led by VTT developed a solution to the challenges involved in maintenance and the provision of work instructions, which have been an issue for more than a decade. Since maintenance and other work tasks in space are critical, they must be carried out without errors and at the right time.

Preparing for these requires in-depth practising, which involves coordinating the activities of various experts. Since astronauts’ time is extremely valuable, their tasks and maintenance instructions must be unambiguous.

An augmented reality demonstration underway in
the ISS’s Columbus research laboratory.
(photographer: Domenico Tedone, Thales-Alenia Space, Italy)

The system is expected to reduce mistakes, speed up the tasks and improve the clarity of the instruction by the use of AR technology. The major benefit is the real-time location of the point requiring maintenance.

This information is transmitted to the astronaut’s AR glasses explicitly and at the right time by using text, graphics, video, sound etc. The system displays detailed visual instructions on the astronauts’ AR glasses, guiding them step by step to perform the necessary procedures in the right order, such as “now press this button”, “then turn the lever (B)”.


The new system also makes the invisible visible by enabling the visualization of telemetry data from equipment and other systems on board the space station, such as fault diagnostics, the latest maintenance data, life cycle, radiation, pressure or temperature – both in space and on the ground. All of this information can be displayed on the AR glasses.

Training facility at ISS’s Columbus research
laboratory. (photographer: Spyros Bolierakis, ICCS,
Greece).

”The AR system that we developed runs on the Microsoft HoloLens platform. It supports the astronauts’ work in a completely new way by displaying key telemetry data through an IoT (Internet-of-Things) interface,” explains Project Manager Kaj Helin of VTT.

The first practical tests of the new AR systems have been performed in the ISS-Columbus training mock-up located in the ESA’s on-ground European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany. The test team included an experienced astronaut.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd – www.vtt.fi


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