NASA launches space-watch UI design contest

NASA wants to bring their astronauts fully into the smartwatch age, and they want your help in making this possible, as the US space agency has launched a contest that is open the public and designed to help find a suitable user interface for crew devices on the International Space Station.

The purpose, according to NBC News, is to allow astronauts serving on the orbiting facility to have regular access to their schedules, the status of the station, and several other vital pieces of data all at the same time – without needing to lug laptops or tablets with them across the station.

Interface designs should used the Android-powered Samsung Gear 2 is a reference and should be created in PNG or JPEG wireframes covering a multitude of functions, such as a Crew Timeline app to keep track of the astronaut’s daily schedule, a color-coded cautions and warnings app, and an app that could be used to set timers for procedures or countdown to the next activity.

While the UI will need to cover those functions, Engadget notes that the apps themselves do not need to be created as part of the competition and will likely be handled in house at NASA. They emphasized that the design should “direct attention to the appropriate information for a task and increase efficiency,” provide the necessary feedback, and be easy to read.

A chance to earn prestige (and a small cash award)

What does the developed who designs and creates the winning interface get for his or her efforts? The sum of $1,500, which the folks at Engadget argue “seems a bit chintzy for what sounds like a crucial app.” However, as NBC News counted, the real reward is “the honor of helping design an app for astronauts.” Not to mention that it would look good on a resume.

Officials at the US space agency are increasingly turning to crowdsourcing to come up with new designs and engineering concepts for its missions, according to The Verge. Back in May, NASA announced its “Journey to Mars Challenge,” which solicited ideas for ways to keep the crew safe as they travelled to the Red Planet, while requiring limited resupply missions from Earth.

Last month, they also went online seeking for new tool designs that could be used by Robonaut 2, the humanoid robot on the ISS, added. During those contests, NASA provided an image of what each tool should look like, and asked inventors to come up with a realistic three-dimensional model of a workable design, for which they could receive $50 to $100.


Pictured is astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)