NASA joins race for VR technology, ropes in students

NASA may allow a tour of Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland via VR headsets in the near future


NASA is currently exploring VR (virtual reality) technology and discovering how it can be integrated into advanced research about space. A team led by Thomas Grubb, a NASA engineer from Goddard Space Flight Center is currently working on six multidisciplinary pilot projects, which emphasize the potentials of VR and AR (augmented reality). This team consists of experts in the concerned field and also students from several universities. Grubb, who is responsible for the supervision of the experimental VR projects, called college and high school students on board.

"Anyone who followed the popularity of Pokémon Go has seen how the public has embraced this technology. Just as it's changing the gaming industry, it will change the way we do our jobs. Five years from now, it's going to be amazing," said Grubb.

Both scientists and students are now capable of exploring the universe with the help of the newly developed VR suites at Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland. Individuals would be able to recognize damaged satellites, examine rock structures and perform several other functions using this VR technology. It would be cheaper and will also save a lot of time, according to NASA.

"You know, it's cheaper to have people go to a lava tube in VR than to actually fly them out there for two weeks," Grubb told WHYY.

The aim of the space agency is to push more of its employees to experiment with VR technology in space.

"Throughout the center, there's a big push right now from engineers and scientists to actually use virtual reality to enhance their work—whether it be to make it faster, or to make certain things easier to do," said a senior web developer of NASA, Bryan Stephenson during a podcast. Stephenson is also a VR specialist.

Add to that, NASA is now planning to allow virtual reality users to take a tour of the Goddard Spaceflight Center from their own homes through VR headsets.

Also Read: Virtual Reality could help fight phobias, anxiety and addictions

A new virtual reality camera has been set up on the International Space Station earlier this month and the images taken by it would be shown on National Geographic in its forthcoming series. So, you might not be traveling to space aboard ISS anytime soon but you can experience it, thanks to the VR camera.

This article was first published on November 27, 2017