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Center Innovation Fund: SSC CIF

Prototype Application of Portable Augmented Reality Technology for Enhancement of Space and Planetary Exploration

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Due to a lack of atmosphere and lighting, ascertaining location and distance of features on the lunar surface is extremely difficult. Because of these issues, developing a capability that addresses the need to identify features remotely would be beneficial for future lunar and planetary surface studies. This project investigated using the latest augmented reality (AR) techniques, with commercially-off-the-shelf (COTS) available AR software, for locating distant ground articles through an augmented live view.  Methods for properly geolocating articles of interest and augmenting information and/or 3-D representations of them accurately in virtual space around the user were investigated. To accomplish this, smart tablets equipped with AR software were used to test for both potential uses for accurate AR tracking/location and for ease of development; the results demonstrated a proof-of-concept with potential for future use as a planetary feature locator tool.

For this project, several different augmentation techniques for locating ground articles from distance through an augmented live view were investigated.  Article photo-recognition, printed AR target on articles recognition, and geotagging augmented reality techniques were tested for accurate AR tracking, location, and ease of development. Also, an innovative use of combined virtual reality (VR) panorama elements along with properly placed AR elements in the virtual scene was tested for accuracy and ergonomic field viewing via the smart device. Test cases were run at SSC with: (1) common above and underground facilities; and (2) at a long barren sandy test site, with various application/techniques to determine feasibility of potential use for extra-planetary AR location/identification. Tests were first run at close range and then, if those runs were successful, they were additionally run at a distance. 

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