NASA: VR is a 'game changer' and will be standard in 10 years

(c)NASA/David C. Bowman

There are some who would doubt the future of augmented and virtual realities as viable and long-lasting tech for the future, but a recent article by NASA has further fortified our beliefs that it’s here to stay.

The feature about NASA’s oldest research facility Langley, in Virginia, focuses on how the center is aiming to make virtual and augmented reality accessible to its employees, as well as developing more internal uses for the tech.

2016 is the first year in which virtual reality is accessible to consumers, and before this it’s simply been too complicated and expensive for an individual researcher to use on their own, according to the article.

But now, even people with a basic understanding of 3D engines can create “meaningful content as actual applications for research and development,” said Josh Kinne, deputy project manager in NASA Langley’s flight projects.

No matter the usage this new tech can provide, it’s all in the name of making the jobs of NASA Langley employees better

Indeed, Kinne believes VR and AR - digital realities - will become the norm for people a decade from now. NASA is even developing software so it can be a ‘smart buyer’, with the wealth of VR tools becoming cheaper and more available in the marketplace.

While “robust, day-to-day apps” may be years away, Kinne explains that you can take advantage of some uses today - such as 2D environments that only need a small amount of adaptation to support a VR headset.

Uses for VR and AR 

“One of our goals with the work that we’re doing here is we want to be able to have two be able to look at the same virtual scene and communicate with each other and to interact with that scene,” he said.

Other uses NASA is interested for VR and AR is designing a machine part and seeing if it’ll fit by communicating with someone at another center via a headset. NASA also sees education as being a good fit for VR tech, and another good use of AR and VR would be its integration with interactive classroom sessions through the NASA Digital Learning Network.

Despite the wide ranging variety of uses surrounding virtual reality, there are challenges to its adoption; but no more than the usual when a large organisation is trying to adopt new tech.

There’s certainly not a shortage of hardware about the facility, with a plethora of VR tech, including HTC Vive, Microsoft HoloLens and Oculus Rift headsets being available to staff. However, teaching the relevant people to use the tech to its full advantage is something the article talks about as being  important to do.

As such, NASA has an IT specialist, Ed McLarney, who is helping NASA employees figure out how to use VR in a safe way. He says challenges include implementing VR into NASA centers as well as selling their cases to senior officials - and central to making the use cases for AR and VR is by letting them know they are not for ‘fun and games’.

“No matter the usage this new tech can provide, it’s all in the name of making the jobs of NASA Langley employees better, more efficient - and just a bit cooler,” McLarney said. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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