Five months ago, Microsoft took us to a virtual surface of Mars with HoloLens.

HoloLens Mars surface

Now, Microsoft and NASA are teaming up to take HoloLens to space. The two are partnering up to develop Sidekick, a new project using Microsoft HoloLens to “empower astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).”

“HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station,” said Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Sidekick’s main goal is to provide assistance to astronauts when and where they need it. Imagine an astronaut on a spacewalk mission. The astronaut is having issues fixing something aboard the ISS. Instead of just voice instructions from ground control, an engineer could draw a diagram to help.

It sounds like science fiction right now, but it’s closer to reality than you think.

Sidekick’s potential uses for deep space missions is even more compelling. Animated holographic illustrations can be displayed on top of objects astronauts are interacting with. This feature would be extra handy for deep space missions where communication delays are an issue. Plus, holographic illustrations could cut down on the amount of training astronauts require.

Sidekick’s big test starts on July 21 during the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 20 expedition. A group of astronauts and engineers will live in Aquarius, the world’s only undersea research station, for two weeks. Aquarius provides an environment that shares similarities with space such as isolation.

The first pair of Sidekicks will reach the International Space Station on June 28. ISS crew members will test and verify the Sidekick’s standalone mode. A second pair of devices will be delivered on a future mission to test the remote features.

NASA released a video of several astronauts trying out HoloLens during a parabolic flight.

It’s crazy to see the leaps in augmented and virtual reality in just the past couple of years. We are watching the future being developed in front of our eyes. The amount that technology has advanced in the past ten years is mind-blowing. Hell, it hasn’t even been ten years since the iPhone was released. Imagine what the next ten years will bring.

When I’m not playing Rocket League (best game ever), you can find me writing about all things games, space and more. You can reach me at alex@newsledge.com

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