Astronauts train for spacewalks in underwater facilities because neutral buoyancy is a good analog for the zero-gravity environment of space. Training facilities are expensive to operate because they consist of life-sized replicas of spacecraft submerged in immense pools. To reduce costs and increase accessibility, we designed an underwater virtual reality application for spacewalk training. A full-face SCUBA mask was adapted to house a smartphone and lenses, turning it into an underwater head-mounted display. Software was written to simulate the space environment outside the international space station in orbit around earth. A wired, waterproofed controller connected to the phone allowed the user to control movement within this environment via left- and right-hand joysticks to control angular and linear jetpack thrust, with thrust dynamics simulating the action of the NASA jetpack system. A user study was conducted to demonstrate efficacy of the system for training purposes and to evaluate the effect of underwater VR use on sickness and presence.

Paul MacNeilage has been Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, since 2017. Before moving to Reno he completed his PhD training in Vision Science in 2007 at the University of California, Berkeley where he researched orientation illusions in aviation. From 2010-16 he led a research group at the German Center for Vertigo in Munich investigating clinical balance disorders. The current focus of his research is human perception of spatial orientation.

The lecture is included in general admission. Admission is $8 for adults and free for members and children age 17 and under.


07/25/2019 14:00:0007/25/2019 15:00:00America/Los_AngelesApollo 11 50th Anniversary Lecture: Underwater Virtual Reality for Spacewalk Training By Paul MacNeilage, Ph.D.Reno, NV
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