Boeing chooses Varjo’s VR headset for astronaut training
Helsinki-headquartered Varjo has announced a partnership that will see its human-eye resolution virtual-reality (VR) headsets used to prepare crew for space flights as part of Boeing Starliner, a programme to develop a spacecraft for transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).
Astronauts from Boeing Starliner will use the headset to train for every aspect of flights, however minute, from pre-launch to docking, landing and emergency scenarios.
Engineers at Boeing tested all virtual-reality devices on the market before deciding on Varjo VR-2. The headset left its competition in the rear-view mirror with its high resolution: over 60 pixels per degree in the centre of the field of view. Such fidelity enables astronauts to read all mission-critical data from the displays on the crew console from a normal distance during training, meaning they do not have to lean closer to be able to discern the readings and, in the process, lose sight of their hands.
The crew console has been modelled using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine.
“Being able to read the crew displays with a VR headset from a normal position in the capsule was mandatory. Without that, we were really stuck – until we found a headset that worked,” said Connie Miller, a software engineer at Boeing.
The astronauts will have logged hundreds of training hours with the headset for each stage of the mission by the launch of the still unscheduled first crewed mission aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner.
The value of the partnership has not been disclosed.
Varjo has made a name for its high-resolution headsets over its only few-year existence also in other industries, with its previous collaboration partners including the likes of Audi, Fortum, Siemens and Volvo.