Microsoft announced the futuristic at-home augmented reality project Windows Holographic today, and one of the many different uses the company teased was a collaboration with NASA and the Curiosity rover team. Now, NASA has released more information on the software it built for Holographic, a program called OnSight.
By using Microsoft's HoloLens visor, NASA scientists will be able virtually explore the areas of Mars that Curiosity is studying in a fully immersive way. It will also allow them to plan new routes for the rover, examine Curiosity's worksite from a first-person view, and conduct science experiments using the rover's data.
NASA will literally get a new perspective on Mars
The science teams at NASA that have worked with Curiosity's data before have had no problem learning plenty just by a computer screen, but Holographic and HoloLens will literally offer a new perspective on how to interpret the findings. Scientists will be able to virtually surround themselves with images from the rover and then explore the surface from different angles.
That's a big deal, according to OnSight's project manager, who's quoted in the release. "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," he says.
We may still be decades away from landing humans on Mars, but it looks like Holographic and OnSight will help bridge the gap until then. The JPL team will start testing OnSight with Curiosity later this year. Deeper integration into future missions may have to wait until the next proposed Mars rover lands on the red planet in 2020.