"Digital Astronaut": TU Ilmenau wins federal competition with virtual reality project
With the research project "Digital Astronaut - Outboard Mission in Space", the TU Ilmenau haswon the university competition "Science Year 2023 - Our Universe". The winning application uses virtual reality to simulate the visual and acoustic perceptions of astronauts during outboard missions at a space station. For their victory, the young scientists will receive prize money of 10,000 euros, which they will use for their further research work.
Space is completely silent and soundless. If a person speaks in space, their own voice has no sound. The same applies to noises, such as that of a cordless screwdriver during a repair on the spacecraft. For astronauts, the lack of acoustic feedback is a problem, because without sounds it is more difficult for them to recognize whether, for example, a screw is engaging and therefore correctly attached. The work in the spacesuit, in which the astronauts can only see to a limited extent and are disconnected from the outside world, makes things even more difficult. The winning project from TU Ilmenau, "Digital Astronaut - Outboard Operations in Space," is designed to help astronauts work better together despite their limited visual and acoustic perception.
The Digital Astronaut project originates from the TU Ilmenau research project AVSPACE (Audiovisual Feedback to augmented manual Activities during Space Walks) funded by the European Space Agency ESA. In this project, scientists from the Groups of "Virtual Worlds and Digital Games" and "Electronic Media Technology" are developing an Earth-like spatial audio environment that, in combination with visual augmented reality elements, is intended to help space travelers orient themselves better in space. The artificially generated audiovisual feedback is intended to heighten their awareness of the environment in which they find themselves, and restrictions caused by the spacesuit, for example, are to be reduced. In this way, astronauts will be able to carry out maintenance or repair work in space more precisely in the future and avoid mistakes.
In the Digital Astronaut project, young scientists will now develop a demonstrator for the collaboration of two virtual astronauts onouter-orbit missions in space: With the help of this prototype, one person will perform maintenance or repair work on the International Space Station while another guides them from inside the station. Virtual reality immerses the "space travelers" in an apparent reality of spatial hearing and virtual images. The artificially generated audiovisual feedback is intended to heighten their awareness of the environment in which they find themselves, enabling them to perform maintenance work in space more precisely in the future and avoid mistakes.
The effect that makes the awareness of being exposed to illusory stimuli fade into the background to such an extent that the virtual environment is perceived as real is what experts call immersion. The research work is being carried out by the young scientists at the Ilmenau Interactive Immersive Technologies Center (I3TC) at the TU Ilmenau. The I3TC is both a research center and a training facility for state-of-the-art virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, especially for industrial applications.
In the "University Competition 2023 - Show Your Research!", the non-profit organization Wissenschaft im Dialog (Science in Dialog) had called on students, doctoral candidates and young researchers from all disciplines to submit their ideas around the theme of the "Science Year 2023 - Our Universe" sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The projects they are planning at their universities should communicate the social significance of their research and, in the process, make scientific topics "accessible and tangible" to citizens.The fifteen best proposals have now been awarded 10,000 euros each. They will be used to implement the ideas in a research project.
Dr. Stephan Werner
Group of Electronic Media Technology
+49 3677 69-1653