Microsoft is building augmented reality experiences inside its HoloLens headgear that will help NASA astronauts complete complex tasks in space, and allow ground crew to see what the astronauts are seeing.

The new hardware and software combo is a product called Sidekick. According to NASA and Microsoft the product will have two main functions:

Project Sidekick testing

Above: NASA and Microsoft engineers test Project Sidekick on NASA’s Weightless Wonder C9 jet. Project Sidekick will use Microsoft HoloLens to provide virtual aid to astronauts working on the International Space Station.

Procedure Mode overlays animated holographic illustrations on top of real-world tasks so that crew members can be guided through procedures without relying on communications with ground crew.

“This capability could lessen the amount of training that future crews will require and could be an invaluable resource for missions deep into our solar system, where communication delays complicate difficult operations,” NASA said in a blog post.

In Remote Expert Mode, which uses Microsoft’s Skype, a ground operator will be able to see what a crew member sees in space. They’ll also be able to provide real-time instructions and “draw annotations into the crew member’s environment to coach him or her through a task.” Until now, crew members have relied on written and voice instructions when performing complex repair tasks or experiments, NASA said.

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