Virtual reality could be used for more than just entertainment, it may also help scientists to control robots in space, according to NASA.
NASA researchers are using Virtual Reality (VR) to help human operators to practice controlling a humanoid helper outside Earth’s atmosphere.
Although NASA has sent humanoid-like robots into space before, controlling the robonauts all the way from Earth remains a problem, scientists said.
The US space agency is now exploring the Mighty Morphenaut – a programme that puts an operator in the shoes of a robot in space, the ‘Tech Times’ reported.
In the demo, the robot is aboard a space shuttle and the operator is given the opportunity to learn how to get the robonaut to complete a task, like flipping a switch or manoeuvre around floating obstacles at a safe distance.
To do these activities, operators strap a VR headset on their heads, which allows them to see what the robot would “see”, and take hold of a pair of controllers that enable them to take over the robonaut’s hands.
However, in a real-world scenario there may be challenges in controlling a space robot from the Earth.
The distance between the operator on Earth and the robot in space would cause an amount of input delay.
Although the VR demo does take the delay into account by allowing the operator to see a ghost resemblance of their hands moving without the delay, the problem of lag gets more difficult to solve when interacting with objects in motion, the researchers said.