NASA uses HoloLens to build virtual Mars rover

Image: Virtual rover
Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory check the design of a rover assembly using Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality system. (Credit: NASA)

We’ve already seen how Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed-reality headset is helping folksfight off aliens on the International Space Station and take a virtual walk on Mars. Now check out how it’s being used to tweak the design for NASA’s next Mars rover.

Last week, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed off its ProtoSpace application, which superimposes a computer-generated version of space hardware over your field of view in the headset.

The application lets JPL’s engineers size up how components fit together in the design of the 2020 Mars rover, which is currently under development at the lab in Pasadena, Calif. They can also take real-world hardware and compare it against the ghostly design that’s floating before their eyes.

The beauty of the system is that they can push through the virtual parts on the outside and get into the guts of the rover, in what appears to be real physical space.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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