NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Microsoft engineers developed a new technology that can allow Mars mission scientists to remotely control Curiosity rover and explore the Red Planet from the comfort of their offices.
The new technology dubbed OnSight would also allow scientists to program Curiosity and perform real-time experiments by only using wearable devices.
“OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices “
stated Dave Lavery, chief of the Mars Science Laboratory mission which is conducted from the space agency’s base in Washington.
Mr. Lavery added that the new technology has the potential of changing the way scientists understand the Martian landscape explored by the rover.
According to Microsoft engineers, OnSight would use constantly updated data transmitted by Curiosity to create a 3-D simulation of the Martian surroundings. The simulation will also allow scientists from all corners of the world to meet up and confront their ideas.
Mars mission scientists will also have the opportunity of having a first-person experience on the Martian work site, better organize Curiosity’s daily tasks, and have a direct preview of how next activities may look like.
Additionally, OnSight would allow NASA engineers to share the new findings with the rest of the world and gather important scientific feedback from world’s academics, said OnSight project manager Jeff Norris from the JPL.
To this moment, NASA researchers first analyze the imagery beamed back by Curiosity on a computer screen. Later they discuss the potential findings those images may imply. But drawing conclusions from 2-D images and even 3-D rendered ones can be tricky since images lack sense of depth and the viewer may not be able to accurately gauge distances.
In order to address that problem, OnSight will use HoloLens technology, or holographic computing. This technology combines real-life imagery with virtual reality so that researchers can better estimate distances.
Mr. Norris explained that the new technology would unstuck NASA scientists from one side of a computer screen. Also, he added that OnSight tool will allow scientists explore the remote planet’s soil just like geologists do field work on our planet.
Furthermore, the new technology will be very interactive. Scientists will have the ability to program the science tools of the rover by just looking at one rock or a random target and select commands with a few air taps.
Microsoft unveiled its HoloLense holographic technology in late January this year.
Image Source: Oxford Dictionaries