September 23, 2009

Wearable computer tested on space station

The European Space Agency says astronaut Frank De Winne has tested a wearable computer system while changing an International Space Station filter.

The ESA said its system includes a display that projects 3D graphics and data onto De Winne's field of view. Called the Wearable Augmented Reality system, the technology is voice-controlled to allow for hands-free operation. The system also identifies locations and objects, displays information about them, and provides detailed instructions to help astronauts quickly complete complex procedures.

At the moment, International Space Station crews still use paper instruction manuals for many operational and maintenance tasks, said Luis Arguello, who oversees the WEAR project for the ESA. Obviously, it's easier to perform a task while holding instructions in your hand. So we have developed a new type of user interface that is easier still, allowing astronauts to be guided precisely in their work without holding anything at all.

De Winne, an astronaut from Belgium, was able to see procedural diagrams while keeping his hands free when he used WEAR to open decking and change a filter on the space station.