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HTC will launch a Vive VR headset into space for astronaut mental health

HTC goes to house. The corporate introduced at this time that on a deliberate November seventh NASA resupply launch, a tweaked, microgravity-friendly model of its Vive Focus 3 VR headset might be despatched to the Worldwide Area Station. As soon as it’s there, Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen will check the Focus 3’s viability for serving to alleviate the psychological stress that NASA says comes from the “lack of privateness, excessive and variable workloads, and separation from family members” inherent to work in house.

HTC partnered with a digital actuality remedy firm known as XRHealth to work on a “digital help psychological steadiness initiative” by aeronautics R&D firm Nord-Area ApS to attempt to meet astronauts’ distinctive wants. HTC believes its tweaked headset Vive Focus 3 gained’t make astronauts grow to be disoriented or lose their lunch in contrast to previous makes an attempt at utilizing VR in house, the place the shortage of gravity wanted to offer a VR headset its directional body of reference can grow to be nauseatingly out of sync with its wearer’s actions.

The HTC Vive Focus 3, packed for its journey to the ISS.
Picture: Danish Aerospace Firm / Nord-Area ApS

Thomas Drexmier, HTC Vive’s assistant vice chairman, informed The Verge in an interview that, moreover software program modifications and a few needed energy administration changes, the Vive Focus 3 Mogensen will check is in any other case the identical one it sells right here on Earth.

The corporate says it addressed the spatial orientation drawback in software program, tying its monitoring algorithms to one of many controllers, which is stationary and tracked by the cameras and proximity sensor of the headset. That provides the Focus 3 the relative positioning it must match its movement to the wearer. On the identical time, the wearer can navigate menus both utilizing eye-tracking or the opposite controller.

Testing the Vive Focus 3 on a parabolic flight in November 2022.
Picture: Novespace

The months-long keep might be an enormous check of whether or not HTC’s strategy works. Till now, HTC says the headset has solely been weightless for about 20 seconds at a time, in the course of the simulated orbital freefall aboard parabolic flights. If the Focus 3 proves resilient on this mission, it may open the door to a extra strong space-based VR expertise focused at longer missions — together with a potential two-year round-trip voyage to Mars.

Accompanying HTC’s tweaks on the mission is the VR software program constructed by XRHealth. Eran Orr, the corporate’s founder and CEO, mentioned that Mogensen may have entry to about 10 primarily 360-degree movies, together with some from Denmark, the place he’s from, “with the concept of attempting to offer [him] a way of house.” The software program can even supply brief respiratory and meditation workouts, whereas additional updates might carry extra options after the headset is on the station.

A screenshot from one of many movies XRHealth created for the Vive Focus 3’s ISS testing.
Picture: XRHealth

However this, as with the Vive {hardware}, is barely a check — there isn’t any therapy facet. It’s a “very small step ahead,” Orr informed me, “however the imaginative and prescient is a magnitude larger than what we’re doing now.” Ultimately, XRHealth hopes for astronauts to make use of the headset to attach with folks again on Earth, together with therapists and coaches.

Astronaut Andreas Mogensen present process spacewalk coaching within the Digital Actuality Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Area Heart in Texas.
Picture: NASA



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