Star Trek: Voyager, move over because now we have actual hologram doctors in space! Hopefully they’re a bit less dramatic and have a nicer bedside manner. Oh and they can’t actually touch anyone or do anything particularly cool yet. Other than that, it exists on the ISS, which is actually pretty damn cool when you think about it.
NASA explains (via Space.com) that a team of medical personnel were “holoported” onto the ISS from Earth. This was achieved using a Microsoft Hololens Kinect camera, and custom software. It sends and constructs high-quality 3D models of people so they actually appear to be on the space station with the astronauts. I wonder if this is what Microsoft expected out of its still, oddly named, Project Natal from over ten years ago.
This is useful for communicating with people at vast distances, like for example in outer space, while still maintaining some feeling of human connection. For people on long missions away this step up could bring them one step closer to home relatively easily. It also lets loved ones come and visit, in a way.
For now it seems like a bit of a glorified 3D zoom call that requires a Hololens, but this is early days yet. And even a zoom call is impressive in space. But the next step is to integrate this technology with augmented reality which could lead to interesting possibilities.
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NASA talks about using the tech for all sorts of things like face to face feeling medical and psychiatric consults, visits with family as well as technical use cases. Being able to have a high quality hologram of the person who designed the component of the ship you’re trying to fix right there with you in space has got to be helpful.
Especially if they can get a clear view of what you’re doing in real time. It’s another tool to get more expertise out into the stars, or anywhere else difficult to reach, without even having to leave home. Though given the military is also interested in Hololens gear, it may not all be about healing and helping.
For sci-fi fans it can feel a bit like a watered down version of what we all imagine holo-tech to be but it’s an exciting step along the way in this journey. Maybe they can combine it with crazy haptics, like these chemicals to help give a further sense of touch in the future.
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