As a Space guy myself its pretty cool to hear about ProtoSpace NASA Mars Rover and how they will use mixed reality with the Microsoft Hololens Technology. The ability to investigate the design of NASA’s latest spacecraft, which is being engineered for the next mission to Mars in 2020, makes ProtoSpace a unique use for Microsoft’s augmented-reality headset. The project enables JPL designers and engineers to not only visualize their designs as virtual 3-D objects, but also pinpoint potential problems that could affect space missions along the way.

ProtoSpace is one of two mixed reality experiments at JPL. With the other, more widely known application, OnSight, the team has been using the new visual medium to recreate a hologram of Mars based on the Curiosity rover’s current exploration. Strapping on a HoloLens can quickly transform the floor into a rusty red planet, complete with its rocks, cracks and craters.

The technology allows engineers to work around some of the complexities of the machines and tools they use to make space exploration more experiential even for scientists. “Mixed reality brings data from our missions and the environment they’re exploring to us in ways that feel familiar and natural,” says Jeff Norris, lead mission operations at JPL. “It [replicates] the ways in which we look at the world today. I see it as not only simplifying the process of space exploration for our explorers but also allowing them to gain insights that they wouldn’t access if we weren’t engaging their natural abilities as effectively.”

“It’s very important for engineers to gain intuition for the actual size, shape and arrangement of the spacecraft,” says Norris. “They need to see these designs at full human scale so they can use their natural abilities for the feeling of how large a part is or how tight the clearance might be. It’s difficult to access that when you’re looking at a model on a computer screen.”

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