Virtual reality is still in a nascent phase, but astronaut Scott Kelly, who just returned from a year in space, sees the tech as having a lot of potential both many miles up and down here on Earth.
Kelly used Microsoft HoloLens, which is really an AR viewer, while on the International Space Station (ISS), and during a media briefing in Houston today, he was asked whether he thinks virtual reality has a future in the outer limits.
"I think virtual reality has a lot of potential," he said. "With the [HoloLens], we were doing a test. It had some cameras on it, and we could see a display that's in your field of view. The person on the ground could be in your field of view and drawing things, and I could do the same."
"You could be doing a maintenance procedure," he continued. "Say, 'Is this the bolt?', and someone on the ground could draw an arrow and say, 'Yeah, that's it.'"
Kelly seemed genuinely impressed with the HoloLens. He said it "worked great" and was "messed around with" for two hours on the ISS.
"Immediately I sensed it was a capability we could use right now," he said.
Space man endorsement
Kelly gave another example of performing a task and having a procedure put inside the user's field of view, off to the side. He described how the user could glance at it when they needed to as they executed the task.
"The technology in general has great potential, not just in space but here as well," he said.
Microsoft has touted HoloLens has having applications in a wide range of sectors, from education to gaming to helping astronauts like Kelly. His endorsement for the headset and VR in general is a good sign both will catch on in the science world.
Kelly was asked if VR messed with his head at all in the close quarters of the ISS, but the commander seemed only to enjoy the experience.
"It has a game with aliens coming into the space station, and you're shooting at them with your finger," he said. "It didn't seem to make anyone sick. It was kind of fun."