Five Cool Ways NASA is Using Immersive Technology

by Dror Denishman

There aren’t too many better organizations on Earth to see cutting-edge technology than the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Not surprisingly as the Americans helped build and launch the International Space Station (ISS) and regularly have scientists performing experiments high over our heads. A big part of this effort is the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to help perform experiments and maintain the ISS itself. Let’s take a deeper dive into the the five coolest uses of immersive technology that NASA is using.

#1 Sidekick

Sidekick is a set of goggles that astronauts use to provide them hands-free assistance using high-resolution holograms of 3D schematics and/or diagrams of physical objects to complete their tasks.
Sidekick goes as far as incorporating video teleconference abilities which allow the crew to get direct interaction and assistance from third parties ranging from flight control operators to the developers of certain payloads to experts in specific fields of research.

#2 Pilote

This program is brought to the ISS from the European Space Agency (ESA) and France’s National Center for Space Studies (CNES) uses virtual reality to test remote operation of robotic arms and space vehicles.
The controls use VR in interfaces with haptic connections to simulate touch and motion. This means that the user feels what the robot is doing, which helps not only give it a more grounded feeling, but also allows astronauts to start mimicking movements so that they can perform the same task with practice.
Ergonomics are quite different in space than they are on the ground, so it is excellent practice for astronauts and for scientists who study them in order to see what the long-term effects of living in low-to-no gravity are on the human body.


The ISS’s exercise bicycle, abbreviated as CEVIS, is equipped with a VR headset that can transport its riders from the static view inside the low-gravity environment to an immersive world of their choosing - fanciful locations or real-life ones.
This immersive exercise experiment is testing to see if the VR component can increase astronaut motivation to exercise and also allows them a bit of escapism from the quite sterile environment they typically find themselves in.

#4 Time travel?

Well there’s no Delorean or telephone booth required for this one, but given how rapidly the ISS rotates around the earth, astronauts end up being affected differently by time than those on the ground.
The speed of the body’s movement can actually affect our time perception and make it difficult to sleep and easy to get stressed out. One solution is the head-mounted VR display of Time Perception.
Once a month, astronauts take part in a series of tests that involve a finger trackball and a laptop to evaluate the adaptive changes they are undergoing while in orbit.

Credits: NASA

#5 Just like being there

The ISS Experience is a VR series that immerses everyone from museum goers to students in classrooms and showcases what a day in the life on the ISS is like.
It uses special 360-degree cameras that make viewers feel like they are along on the mission, including direct interactions with crewmembers, watching experiments happen, and taking those amazing looks out the window to watch our blue-and-green marble go whizzing by.

Credits: NASA