NASA has really jumped into VR with both feet. According to Matthew Noyes, software lead at Johnson Space Center’s Hybrid Reality Lab (talk about your job titles), VR is the new duct tape. Noyes wants to apply VR to everything from astronaut training to helping them stay fit while they’re living aboard the International Space Station.
“We marry the very nice graphical performance of VR today with physical objects that we 3D print, allowing people to grab and interact with tools in the real world that are very inexpensive to produce, overlaid in virtual reality with really good graphics on top of those tools,” Noyes told The Australian. Training astronauts in this fashion apparently gets rave reviews from the astronauts themselves.
Furthermore, VR can be used to help astronauts exercise. “If they’re up in space they need to do about two hours of exercise a day to mitigate bone-density and muscle loss, and that can get kind of boring,” Noyes said. “If we can replace the ISS environment with maybe their favorite running track on Earth, or images of their family, like nostalgia therapy for dementia patients, that might be extremely useful on a mission to Mars.”