By Amanda Griffin
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
What started as a concept less than two years ago through the Early Career Initiative (ECI) — a program that encourages creativity and innovation among early career NASA technologists — is well on its way to becoming a viable technology to solve a myriad of space and Earth-bound challenges.
Imagine a futuristic movie in which the main character is wearing a pair of glasses that presents all the information needed to complete a task. Developed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Integrated Display and Environmental Awareness Systems, or IDEAS, is a wearable, optical computer that allows users to view and modify information on an interactive display.
Once just a notion, IDEAS quickly has progressed to become one of 11 technologies featured at the Game Changing Technology Industry Day in Arlington, Virginia, earlier this summer.
This year’s industry day focused on current technologies that would fit commercial and academic partnerships, and included Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, Human Robotic Systems, Affordable Vehicle Avionics, Nanotechnology and Next Generation Life Support.
“NASA has earned credibility by making the impossible possible,” said IDEAS lead integration engineer Allan Villorin of Kennedy’s Engineering Directorate. “It was exciting to share with industry leaders how we envision wearable technology shaping the future of space exploration.”
The hardware on display included a live demonstration of the IDEAS system working on a pair of custom NASA-developed smart glasses and on the R-7, a cutting-edge commercial off-the-shelf wearable designed and built by the Osterhout Design Group.
The team demonstrated the capability to visualize environmental data from portable sensors that can detect a variety of hazardous chemicals and even see in the infrared. A potential game changer in how field-work is done was demonstrated, showing the power of two-way video conferencing integrated with procedure work steps.
The main goal of the industry day was to seek partnerships to further innovation in space exploration, but this also was an opportunity for the IDEAS team to gain an outside perspective on the technology from organizations with similar industrial applications.
“The IDEAS will have a wide range of applications beyond NASA’s use in the space program,” said one of the technology’s creators, David Miranda of the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program. “Imagine first responders reporting back to a hospital from the scene of an accident, military personnel reporting in from a battlefield or those working in a hazardous environment. All could benefit from such a system.”
During the first two years of the project, the IDEAS team partnered with innovative organizations around Kennedy. Thanks to the valuable contributions of Abacus Technology, Florida Institute of Technology’s Human-Centered Design Institute, and Purple Rock Scissors, the IDEAS technology rapidly progressed from concept to a real prototype.
With the ECI funding coming to an end at the beginning of next year, the team of Kennedy innovators hopes that in the next few years the prototype technology can be advanced to its final step in development. New commercial collaborations would allow NASA to work with industry partners to develop new capabilities and mature the technology so that can be used in the field to the benefit of all.