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NASA/Industry team developing “Smart Glasses” for space missions

In December of 2015, NASA engineers at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) unveiled an innovative system that could allow an engineer or technician working on a space system to immediately access all the information needed to complete a task using “smart glasses”. Called IDEAS --Integrated Display and Environmental Awareness System – the new system is a wearable, optical computer that allows users to view and modify information on an interactive display.

IDEAS was developed in partnership with Abacus Technology at KSC, the Florida Institute of Technology’s Human Centered Design Institute in Melbourne, Florida, and Purple, Rock, Scissors, a digital creative agency in Orlando, Florida.  The project is managed as part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Game Changing Development (GCD) Program.image of IDEAS innovation exhibit

According to Project Lead David Miranda of KSC’s Ground Systems Development and Operations group, wearable technologies are showing promise across many industries, from manufacturing to medicine. NASA is investing in this new technology to apply it to the agency’s missions.

“The technology being developed here at Kennedy is designed to help technicians do their jobs more efficiently and safely,” Miranda said. “The glasses become a wearable computer system much like a heads-up display. The IDEAS device would allow users to have access to and modify critical information on a transparent, interactive display in a non-obstructed field of view while conducting a task. Work can be documented real-time and the device can stream information to colleagues anywhere in the world.

The glasses include a camera to take photographs or video that could be provided to a console operator in the event something unexpected comes up, allowing for real-time troubleshooting of a problem.

The photo-video capability also adds an extra safety margin.

“An infrared camera will allow detection of hot and cold,” said Miranda. “That would aid in spotting a cryogenic leak or a fire. Hydrogen fires are invisible, but infrared would detect that immediately.”

GCD projects aim to develop technologies through component and subsystem testing on Earth to prepare them for future use in space. New ideas and approaches are investigated that could solve significant technological problems and revolutionize future space endeavors. One of the most promising applications of the IDEAS may be deep-space missions.

“Astronauts traveling far from Earth, such as a mission to Mars, will need to work with autonomy,” said Miranda. “IDEAS could help them operate a spacecraft far from home and have the resources quickly available to respond to the unexpected.”

Miranda added that, “The IDEAS will have a wide range of applications beyond NASA’s use in the space program. Imagine first responders reporting back to a hospital from the scene of an accident, military personnel reporting in from a battlefield or those working in a hazardous environment. All could benefit from such a system.”

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