Controlling an anthropomorphic robot is tricky enough on the ground, but if you’re on the Earth and the bot’s offworld, you’re going to have to deal with a significant delay — more than a second for the Moon, up to 24 minutes for Mars.
To prep the robot operators of the future, NASA developed a PlayStation VR simulator — something like this could, theoretically, be used to control extraterrestrial builders and explorers. You get the pleasant gravity and oxygenated atmosphere of Earth, and your robot hands are tremendously far away.
NASA Jet Propulsion Lab’s demo, which virtual reality-focused website Road to VR reports is called Mighty Morphenaut, is definitely proof-of-concept.
Certain features are, however, a portent of necessary things to come. The time delay gives users “ghost hands,” for example, showing where the robot arms are headed. It’s tough to master, users report, and trying to catch a simulated floating object is particularly challenging at the moment.
If history is precendent, when NASA and Sony join forces, things eventually come to fruition — you could watch the final launch of shuttle Discovery, for instance, on your PS3 back in 2011.
NASA is banking on the virtual- or augmented-reality payoff, sending Microsoft’s Hololens to astronauts aboard the International Space Station in December.