NASA is Using Manus VR Gloves to Train Astronauts in Mixed Reality

by Charles Singletary • September 8th, 2016

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are groundbreaking tech, often providing digital spaces beyond gaming right into professional work environments. For example, we got a hands-on back in July with Manus VR’s arm and finger tracking system. The accessory is working past the major limitations of current VR controllers and how they limit our natural dexterity. With no buttons to learn and special inputs to remember, peripherals like the Manus VR gloves raise the bar on immersion by letting us reach, touch and grab things in the virtual space as we normally do in real life. Now, NASA is getting in on the action, and partnering with Manus VR, in order to train their astronauts in mixed reality.

Mixed reality, or hybrid reality, is when digital and physical objects coexist in real time. A simple example is something like when you play a physical card on the table from Skylanders Battlecast and watch the card come to live on a tablet screen — which also falls into the category of augmented reality in that case.

In preparation for the International Space Station, astronauts are being equipped with the glove from Manus VR and trained in a mixed reality setting. This provides NASA with a great alternative to formerly expensive and rare data gloves. A video released along with the news of the partnership shows a user interacting with various tools in the space station.

NASA has previously tapped the mixed reality market with Hololens tools, as well. In May, NASA had engineers participate in a simulated exercise where they installed a nuclear power system to a rover while inside a rocket on its launch pad. The simulation was made possible by two programs, Protospace and OnSight. Protospace allows engineers to test parts out to make sure they fit before manufacturing, thus saving a great deal on cost. OnSight used images of Mars captured via satellite and from the Curiosity land rover to allow scientists to examine the terrain up close.

Valve announced on August 4th that they’ll be making their SteamVR tracking available to the public royalty free. Manus VR will be taking advantage of this to begin work on a tracking bracelet, making their collection of tools even more functional in VR spaces.

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