Week in Tech: Windows on your face, Google goes to space

23 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Microsoft’s holographic headset will let scientists ‘work’ on MARS: Nasa using virtual reality to plan trips to red planet.

NASA is working on a small helicopter that could fly ahead of future Mars rovers, checking out various possible points of interest and helping engineers back on Earth plan the best driving route.‘OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices,’ said Dave Lavery, program executive for the Mars Science Laboratory mission at Nasa headquarters in Washington. Each NASA rover has delivered a wealth of information about the history and composition of the Red Planet, but a rover’s vision is limited by the view of onboard cameras. Microsoft unveiled its wireless HoloLens headset yesterday, which can project 3D images into the wearer’s field of view – making it appear as if screens, games, people and even planets are in front of them.

Another part of the helicopter’s job would be to check out the best places for the rover to collect key samples and rocks for a cache, which a next-generation rover could pick up later. Scientists will be able to examine the rover’s worksite from a first-person perspective, plan new activities and preview the results of their work first hand. Jeff Norris, JPL’s OnSight project manager explained: ‘We believe OnSight will enhance the ways in which we explore Mars and share that journey of exploration with the world.’ Until now, the scientists have examined Mars imagery on a computer screen, but even 3D stereo views lack a natural sense of depth that humans use to understand spatial relationships. Members of the Curiosity mission team have been donning Microsoft HoloLens visors which surrounds them with images from the rover’s Martian field site.

It will assist researchers in better understanding the environment and workspace of robotic spacecraft – something that can be quite challenging with their traditional suite of tools. At the unveiling of the HoloLens, yesterday, which coincided with the launch of Microsoft 10, CEO Satya Nadella described the system as ‘magical’ – but would not say how much it will cost.

Microsoft hopes that already existing augmented and virtual reality companies, like Oculus VR, Magic Leap and Google Glass, will use Microsoft’s hologram programming for their own devices.

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