Virtual reality technology is gradually entering the mainstream with products like Samsung’s Gear VR. Great new hardware is expected in the coming year with companies like Oculus and Sony launching consumer versions of their virtual reality headsets. These gadgets have more uses than just watching movies and playing games, as NASA demonstrates by using PlayStation VR to train space robots.
As per a report NASA and Sony have been working together on a project called Mighty Morphenaut which is a PlayStation VR demo that lets operators exercise control over a humanoid in space. The VR experience essentially recreates the robot’s environment allowing the operator to get the humanoid to perform a certain task or safely navigate obstacles remotely.
NASA has long been working on the Robonaut project, creating dexterous humanoids which can aid and eventually replace humans in space. The idea being that these humanoids will assume control over the repetitive and simple or dangerous tasks that humans on the International Space Station currently have to perform themselves.
Mighty Morphenaut demo uses the PlayStation VR to let the operator look around and make decisions by taking into account the robot’s environment. The robot will then respond accordingly however given the distances involved with beaming signals from an operator on Earth to a robot in space, the demo counters that with “ghost hands” that immediately respond to the operator while the robot’s hands follow later. This will enable the operator to ascertain the lapses in movement due to lag.
The fact that NASA is testing it out goes to show that virtual reality technology can be used for a wide variety of purposes, even if it takes a lot of time for NASA to be completely sure that VR is the way to go to effectively control humanoids in space.