Augmented reality applications are helping astronauts repair the ISS

NASA is currently working hard to develop processes and technology acquired to send humans to the moon again. Currently, astronauts aboard the ISS are using augmented reality applications to assist them in making repairs within the station. The augmented reality system is part of an effort to reduce communications lag, which will be a significant challenge during lunar or Martian missions in the future.

NASA is talking about the T2 Augmented Reality (T2AR) project that currently shows how astronauts can use augmented reality to inspect and maintain scientific and exercise equipment. The equipment the AR system is being used to support is critical for maintaining group health and hitting desired research goals.

The first T2AR activity aboard the ISS uses the Microsoft HoloLens worn by JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi to maintain the station's T2 Treadmill. Typically, the inspection is performed using a PDF document accessed via a computer tablet. However, it can be difficult to hold onto documents in low gravity environments while handling tools required to perform the maintenance.

Using the T2AR system, Noguchi was able to wear the HoloLens AR glasses while using both hands to hold tools and perform maintenance activities. The AR glasses provided the astronaut with step-by-step guidance and clues for performing the maintenance without looking away from the task being completed.

T2AR is the first in-space operational use of Microsoft's HoloLens system with custom augmented reality software. The system allows the astronaut to perform the maintenance and inspection operations with no assistance. The latest experiment does build on the Sidekick experiment performed in 2016. The current technology demonstration was limited to the treadmill, but the platform itself is designed to be used across various systems aboard the ISS.