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Microsoft is sending HoloLens to space to help NASA

Microsoft is sending its augmented reality HoloLens glasses into orbit to help out astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).

The collaboration between the U.S. technology giant and NASA is called "Sidekick" is meant to be a "virtual aid to astronauts working off the Earth, for the Earth", according to the space agency.

HoloLens projects holographic images onto the surrounding environment and allows people to interact with the projected images.

Astronauts will use Microsoft-owned Skype via HoloLens to allow the ground operator to see what the crew members see and provide real-time guidance to resolve issues. The ground operator could also "write" notes and "draw" diagrams on to a crew member's environment to help them through a task. Previously the astronaut would have relied on written and voice instructions for complex repair tasks or experiments.

NASA

The second potential use will see HoloLens project animated holographic illustrations on top of object with which the crew is interacting. NASA said this could reduce the amount of training crews require and "could be an invaluable resource for missions deep into our solar system, where communication delays complicate difficult operations".

"This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars," Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS program at NASA, said in a statement.

NASA and Microsoft have been testing project Sidekick in a weightless environment to see whether the device can function in the low gravity environment of the ISS.

A pair of the devices will be sent to the space station on June 28 as part of a commercial resupply mission.

This is not the first collaboration between NASA and Microsoft. Earlier this year Microsoft said it had worked with NASA to create a hologram image of Mars using the pictures from the Mars Rover, allowing them to explore the surface in close detail from Earth.