Virtual reality (VR) has been increasingly involved in the area of space travel, with multiple VR apps and videogames attempting to explore and recreate the experience of space travel for users. The European Space Agency (ESA) is using VR is a different way to explore how the brain interprets information such as gravity.
An experiment called Gravitational References for Sensimotor Performance, or GRASP, is exploring how microgravity affects the ability of humans to grab or manipulated objects in the environment of space, using VR to aid in the task.
The GRASP experimental series is designed aid in getting a better understanding of how the human brain draws information from a variety of sources, such as sight, sound and even gravity as part of hand-aye coordination.
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station don a specialised VR headset which is driven by a laptop with a customised audio and graphical system. This simulates a series of tasks for users to perform, while a 3D motion tracker display in real time in response to movements of the hand, arm and body.
The experiments are repeated on Earth and up beyond the pull of gravity in order to get a concrete idea of the differences. It is hoped that these insights into physiology and hand-eye coordination will help with research into conditions that relate to vertigo, dizziness, balance and spatial orientation.
The gathered data could also be helpful in guiding astronauts on spacewalks and could assist in developing new guidance systems for robots. This research might then be applied in areas such as remote operation of equipment, which could be used not only to explore the landscapes of other worlds, but could also help surgeons and engineers.
A video clip of the experiment being conducted can be viewed below. For further coverage of new and innovative uses for VR technology, keep checking back with VRFocus.