NASA is using PlayStation VR to train astronauts to use robots in space

Over the years NASA has discovered that trying to remotely control robots in space is no easy task, which is why it has teamed up with Sony’s PlayStation VR to create Mighty Morphenaut.

Designed as a virtual-reality experience using PlayStation VR – although it could feasibly work with the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift – Mighty Morphenaut allows operators to practice controlling a humanoid robot in space. The demo simulates a space shuttle, allowing the user to understand how the robot navigates its environment and completes tasks.

“The hope is that by putting people in an environment where they can look around and move in ways that are much more intuitive than with a mouse and keyboard,” said Garrett Johnson, software engineer at NASA’s JPL, in a report by Road to VR. “[Using VR] would require less training to understand how to operate the robot and enable quicker, more direct control of the motion.”

Mighty Morphenaut also acclimatises operators to the issues of the time delay between Earth and the International Space Station, although feedback from users still says it’s awkward to account for grasping objects in zero gravity. “With time delay, anticipating the motion of a floating object makes it nearly impossible to interact, so further research might include ways to help users predict that kind of motion.”

NASA also believes that, instead of a simulation, PlayStation VR will be able to provide a live feed to a robot in space, complete with “ghost hands” to indicate movement delay.

This isn’t the first time that Sony’s PlayStation brand has involved itself in scientific research. Back in March 2007, Sony used its PlayStation 3 in conjunction with Folding@home to bring protein folding and disease research to homes around the world.

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