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NASA Teams Up With Microsoft to Explore Mars Using ‘Hololens’

NASA and Microsoft have joined hands to develop new software that will help scientists to work on the Red Planet virtually, using a wearable technology called Hololens.

A statement by NASA, released on Wednesday, declared that its scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasaden, California, will be working with Microsoft to adapt the software giant’s wearable technology called HoloLens, powered by software the partnership is tasked with developing called OnSight.

“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, DC.

As per the plan, OnSight will use real rover data and extend the Curiosity mission’s existing planning tools by creating a 3D simulation of the Martian environment where scientists around the world can meet.

As program scientists will be able to examine the rover’s worksite from a first-person perspective, they would also be able to plan new activities and preview the results of their work firsthand.

“We believe OnSight will enhance the ways in which we explore Mars and share that journey of exploration with the world,” added Jeff Norris, JPL’s OnSight project manager.

Though rover operations required scientists to examine Mars imagery on a computer screen and make inferences about what they are seeing till now, images, even 3D stereo views, lack a natural sense of depth that human vision employs to understand spatial relationships.

OnSight system uses holographic computing to overlay visual information and rover data into the user’s field of view whereas holographic computing blends a view of the physical world with computer-generated imagery to create a hybrid of real and virtual.

According to the NASA statement, in order to view this holographic realm, members of the Curiosity mission team don a Microsoft HoloLens device, which surrounds them with images from the rover’s Martian field site.

However, they can then stroll around the rocky surface or crouch down to examine rocky outcrops from different angles. The tool provides access to scientists and engineers looking to interact with Mars in a morenatural, human way.

“Previously, our Mars explorers have been stuck on one side of a computer screen. This tool gives them the ability to explore the rover’s surroundings much as an Earth geologist would do field work here on our planet,” Norris pointed out.

Meanwhile, the OnSight tool also will be useful for planning rover operations.

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