Like pilots and NASCAR drivers, astronauts regularly use simulations to practice their job. NASA pioneered the use of Virtul Reality (VR) helmets decades ago, but now, Boeing is pushing the envelope with the first end-to-end VR astronaut training simulator. The simulator will prepare Boeing’s Starliner crew for their 2021 journey to the ISS.
But you can’t play Boeing’s VR astronaut game at home. Boeing skipped the Oculus Rift and spent its money on the high-end Varjo VR-2, a commercial system with a bionic display system and “human eye” resolution. That sounds a lot better than Google Cardboard. Anyway, a Varjo kit will run you $4,995—about seven times the price of an Oculus Rift.
Like the SpaceX Dragon 2 capsule that launched last month, the Boeing Starliner is a ferry that will eventually bring humans to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Boeing says that the new VR training simulator covers every step of the Starliner mission, including the prelaunch ceremony and the journey down to Earth.
Development for the simulator is lead by Boeing’s Connie Miller, who chose to use Varjo headsets because their high “human eye” resolution makes it easy for astronauts to read the buttons in a virtual cabin. A full VR training regiment might sound a little over the top, but it guarantees that astronauts can still practice during quarantine or train for their return while floating around the ISS.
Will you ever see Boeing’s VR training program? The answer is a cool “maybe.” The Starliner has a passenger seat, and Boeing may use its VR training program to (eventually) train space tourists. Also, Boeing says that its virtual Starliner relies on the Unreal Engine, so it may be possible to port the simulation to commercial VR headsets in the future.
Source: Boeing via UploadVR