3D Interaction in Microgravity Environments

This project is a collaboration with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and explores the influence of micro- and hypergravity in parabolic flight during the performance of selecting virtual objects in Augmented Reality (AR) environments, which enable the enrichment of the physical world with virtual information. Such interfaces should enhance the user’s perception of the real world and thereby supply support for service and maintenance tasks at complex technical facilities. One important aspect of research in AR environments investigates the user’s interaction with real and virtual objects in an intuitive and natural manner.

Pointing to a virtual object in 3D physical reality is one of the basic interaction techniques in virtual environments. Using common input devices (e.g., mice, keyboard) is not suitable for mapping control tasks in 3D AR environments. To apply AR user interfaces to space flight missions has a great potential for future space operations. During a mission the astronaut’s handling of displays and control items depends on an easy and intuitive usability. Our experiment will investigate the ability of a human to pick virtual objects in 3D space under micro-g and hyper-g conditions during parabolic flight. This will enable the measurement of the quality and quantification while performing this task in order to evaluate human performance in virtual object selection in physical reality.

We have developed an experimentation task that includes pointing to a virtual keyboard to investigate different arrangements modalities of interactive AR interfaces. The results of the experiment will allow the identification of special requirements and early consideration of the influence of different acceleration conditions (micro-g, hyper-g) during our currently development stage of AR user interfaces for future aerospace applications.

Supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) we have carried out parabolic flight experiments in May 2012 and June 2013.