Mixed Reality applications by Nasa

Published Categorized as Business Stories

Application of AR and VR in Aerospace industry goes back decades. In fact it was one of the first industries in the world that adopted this technology. As the time progresses this technology has improved a great deal. It has trickled down to other industries mainly entertainment industry. Specially with augmented reality being implemented in smartphones it has become accessible to the masses. However this does not mean that the Aerospace companies such as NASA has moved on from this technology. In fact it is still very much part of the plan which illustrates how versatile the applications of such technology is. Therefore today this article will discuss the developments made by NASA related to AR and VR in recent times.

T2 Augmented Reality

The goal of this project is straightforward, to help guide the astronauts in maintenance of onboard equipment. It was demonstrated at NASA/Microsoft solution workshop in October 2021. This technology is able to direct astronauts to the work sites using AR. It is able to read instructions and also show the AR cues on display while the astronauts is working. Furthermore it can also show supplementary information such as instructional videos for further guidance.

This technology uses the Microsoft HoloLens as hardware which NASA has been using since 2016. Moreover the software is a custom built AR software that would assist the astronauts.

NASA astronaut Megan Mc Arthur using Microsoft HoloLens photo credit: NASA

Using AR to help in following step by step procedure is something that is already being implemented. Auqua project is one such example. However this project will allow the use of technology without any contact from mission control. Therefore the aim is to substitute humans with artificial intelligent software that can help in whatever questions the astronaut has. According to International space station associate scientist Bryan Dansberry, “AR tools hold the promise of allowing us to pre-package guidance and expertise”

Fun Fact

The furthest man made object is the voyager 1. It was launched back in 1977, 45 years ago.

Voyager 1 is travelling at the speed of 17 km per second.

It takes 21 hours 34 minutes and 34 seconds for signal to travel one way from mission control to the voyager as of 22nd March 2022.

The International space station operates at an altitude of 400km, and is in contact with mission control around the world at all times. More importantly the time it takes to send and receive data is negligible. Therefore conducting live video session between mission control and ISS is not an issue. However as we all know space is a lot bigger than that and when huge distances are involved sending and receiving data takes times. To take up the ambitious mission of sending humans to Mars this technology will be very handy. The time it takes for a signal to travel from Earth to Mars and back is between 5-20 minutes (depending on relative positions of the both planets)! So imagine the lag in communication that would cause.


Augmented Reality for Air traffic management

Another interesting development by NASA is the use of AR for air traffic management. Drones are becoming more and more popular and they will populate the skies. Unlike aircraft the drones don’t have a set flight path. With increased number of drones in the air the chances of mid air collision or other drone related safety hazard can occur.

The user can wear a mixed reality headset for example Microsoft HoloLens and will be able to see essential information about the drones in the air. This information, such as flight pattern, vehicle mission etc. is shown through computer generated graphics on real-world environment. Moreover, through the hand gestures or eye tracking the user can select the items, which makes the experience very interactive. The software used is developed at the Airspace Operations Laboratory at Ames. In future the aim is make this technology available on smartphones allowing it to be more accessible to the people.

Credits: NASA/Ames research center

“As we look at how to safely integrate these vehicles into already complex city infrastructures and airspaces, augmented reality is a great tool, with a lot of potential for how we think of managing our skies in the future.” Mercer, a researcher at NASA’s Ames research center.






By Sahibzada Hamza

Passionate about drones. Disruptive technologies always intrigues me. Love to interview interesting people. Also a rocket scientist.

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